Communication Service Providers will play an essential role in enabling the Metaverse vision because the ability of a Metaverse Instance to provide a satisfactory Experience will depend on the network being flawless in its ability to support the features listed in Subsection 7.3.2:
- As analysed in Section 188.8.131.52, to provide a User with the flawless visual experience that most claim to be a necessary condition for the Metaverse experience to be acceptable, the network must be able to provide a very high bitrate to a VR or AR headset.
- If the experience is altered by network inadequacy, the User’s Sense of Agency, Embodiment, and Presence will be lost and the User will be catapulted back to the Universe.
- As analysed in Subsection 7.4, the operation of a VR headset implies a Motion-to-Photon latency that it is claimed should be less than 20 ms.
- As depicted in Figure 6 in Subsection 7.3.1, the global network infrastructure will require a substantial overhaul to enable a proper combination of long-distance distribution – covered by cloud computing – and “last mile” distribution – covered by edge computing.
- Data centres shall ensure that Metaverse Instances that require it are always “on” and continue to exist and evolve no matter whether Users are signed in or leaving. The current set up can manage multiplayer online games populated by hundreds of Users, but full-fledged Metaverse Instances will deal with much larger numbers of concurrent Users.
Figure 6 is an indicative representation of a network architecture supporting the interaction between Metaverse Instances and End User Devices.
Figure 6 – Network architecture supporting Metaverse Instances
Note that the network architecture is not meant to be hierarchical. Depending on various factors, such as the actual network elements configuration, a Device can be connected directly with a Metaverse Instance or to a Main data centre or to the Edge.
The ideal goal of the network is to make the Experience of a User in a Metaverse Instance indistinguishable from the Experience that humans have in the Universe. One requirement is that the so-called Motion-to-Photon latency, i.e., the time taken by:
- The Device to capture and process a scene.
- The Network to carry the Data to the Metaverse Instance.
- The Metaverse Instance to process the Data.
- The Network to carry the Data back to the Device.
- The Device to process and present the Data
be smaller than the time beyond which humans perceive a difference with a comparable situation in the Universe.
The performance of the Network supporting a Device should be assessed by the following parameters affecting the user or the network operator:
- Bitrate available to the Device
- Symmetrical or asymmetrical bandwidth
- Bit error rate
- Support to network services
- Number of connectable Devices per unit area
- Maximum tolerable velocity of a Device
- Energy consumed to carry 1 bit
- Energy consumed by a Device.
In the following, the evolving characteristics of mobile and fixed networks will be analysed.
The radio access network (RAN) is the part of a network staying between a Device and the core network. In principle, the Metaverse should be agnostic as to the channel through which Data reach the Metaverse. However, the RAN can be exposed to instabilities radio channel instabilities and have a negative impact on the user experience.
Over the last 3 decades, different generations of RAN standards have offered increasingly improved performance to end users.
- 5G, the latest generation, has or is expected to have soon, the following typical features:
- Use of higher frequency bands (in the 28 and 39 GHz bands).
- 20 Gbit/s available in a cell and 200 Mbit/s to a single user thanks to higher spectral efficiency and reduced cell size.
- Lower latency (down to 1 ms).
- Up to 1 million connected device/km2/ (from 100 thousand of 4G).
- A single shared network supports virtual networks each having its own latency, throughput, security, and bandwidth characteristics.
- Support to devices moving at a speed of up to 500 km/h.
- Reduction of 5G networks’ energy consumption per transported bit by 10 compared to 4G by 2025 and by 20 in 2030 (claim).
- 6G, the next generation, is expected to have the following typical features:
- Higher frequency bands (even above 1 THz).
- 1Tbit/s available in a cell and 1 Gbit/s to a single user.
- Reduced latency to 100 μs.
- Increased number of devices/km2 to 10 million.
- Reduced error rate by 10 times.
- Twice the battery life of devices.
- Improved energy efficiency of the telecom network x2.
- AI-based management of complex networks.
- AI-based personalised services.
- Reduced energy consumption below 1 nJ/bit.
Broadband on the move is good for users and 5G is already providing mobile broadband at a level not accessible to many fixed network users. 6G, planned to be deployed at the end of the decade, is promising more.
The ITU-T has published Network 2030, “A Blueprint of Technology, Applications and Market Drivers Towards the Year 2030 and Beyond”  targeting:
- A rich set of mechanisms to allow for interaction between the applications and the infrastructure beyond raw datagram delivery.
- Extended edge/access with a function-rich thin interconnection between network edges.
- Very high value broadband combined with time-aware network overcoming the current “best effort” internet delivery.
- Multi-access and internet at the level of infrastructure integration and communication service support.
The European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) is working on the Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G) to “complement the 5G wireless network and support the growing number of cloud services requiring high bandwidth and/or low latency connections” and to “provide the evolution required to match and further enhance the benefits that 5G has brought to mobile communications” . It addresses three main features:
- Full-fibre connection (FFC).
- Enhanced fixed broadband (eFBB).
- Guaranteed reliable experience (GRE).
The declared goal of F5G is to provide over 10 times higher bandwidth, 10 times denser fibre connections, and 10 times better reliability and latency.