opinion


Where can CSPs fit in the Metaverse?

Metaverse VR

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Jukka Heiska, CMO at Qvantel, ponders the role communications service providers have to play in the emerging Metaverse.

Gartner previously described the Metaverse as the ‘next version of the internet’. In these interconnected 3D shared virtual spaces people can work, play games, socialise, be entertained, shop, learn and do a lot of other stuff we do in a physical world – only all virtually. It’s an area forecast for substantial growth, with Bloomberg Intelligence predicting that the market for 3D virtual social worlds could be worth $800bn by 2024.

But from a telecoms perspective, what does the Metaverse mean to CSPs? The obvious first answer is connectivity. The high speed and low latency delivered by fibre and 5G SA networks will be needed to enable Metaverse platforms to provide immersive, smooth user experience – both for consumer services (VR gaming, events, social apps, and more) and for enterprise use cases (e.g. virtual events for employees, customer workshops, webinars, operating digital twins of the business and more).

The network slicing capabilities of 5G SA could allow for different latencies and speeds to support specific Metaverse platform applications and these can be tied into different retail and wholesale pricing plans supported by service level agreement for network performance.

However, some CSPs will want to go beyond being a connectivity provider. Deutsche Telekom for example recently teamed up with SK Telecom to bring the South Korean operator’s ifland Metaverse to Europe. The platform allows users to create avatars and set up virtual meetings ‘in a new world’.

By building their own Metaverse platform, SK Telecom don’t want just to be a connectivity provider to the Metaverse platform providers. No doubt there will be vast number of other companies providing Metaverse platforms and CSPs will provide the connectivity that powers these platforms.

In other cases, CSPs will move beyond just providing connectivity and develop business partnerships with specialised companies. This will see them offer solutions such as virtual spaces for enterprises with the ability to have virtual meetings where participants collaborate, share documents and videos in a meeting room environment that looks and feels like it reflects the company’s identity and culture in the physical world.

This could help bridge the creativity and collaboration gap that is emerging as more people chose to work from home post pandemic and help to strengthen employees’ feeling of belonging in the age of remote and hybrid work.

The potential for new business models, personalised contextual advertising and upselling of services or content in the Metaverse is vast. Another example is the potential to use the Metaverse as a marketing channel for telecoms services and those of their business partners (e.g. to upsell to a faster 5G speed tier, or to buy the latest VR headset). The Metaverse could also provide the channel for next generation AI driven customer care and service agents to serve customers in these new digital touchpoints.

For CSPs there will be no one size fits all model for the Metaverse. Some with deep pockets may follow SK Telecoms’ lead and build their own Metaverse platform, but for many it will be a question of building partnerships and playing a role beyond that of a connectivity provider.

Indeed, there could be an opportunity for CSPs to supply the ‘business platforms’ that power Metaverse based commerce. By ‘business platforms’ I mean using a combination of offer catalogues, billing, charging, partner management, care, sales and marketing. CSPs could take a % of the financial transaction when consumers make purchases in the Metaverse and also from new business models. This might include personalised advertising in the Metaverse, or commerce enabled by digital currencies and NFTs for selling outfits and accessories for avatars, or digital art or decorations for virtual homes.

Just like 5G, the Metaverse opens up multiple new avenues for business innovation, which underlines the need for CSP business platforms to have high degree of openness, adaptability, and flexibility for monetisation use cases that don’t even exist yet.

There are undoubtedly still many questions about the Metaverse surrounding areas including regulation, interoperability, net neutrality and policing – but the hope is that these will be resolved relatively quickly. In the meantime, the fact that SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom have partnered to bring the former’s ifland Metaverse platform to Europe suggests the opportunities for CSPs may become reality sooner than expected.

 

Jukka Heiska is Qvantel’s Chief Marketing Officer. He has 20+ years’ experience in the telecoms and software industry – starting from the early days of mobile internet at Nokia, to today’s cloud-based service solutions that accelerate transformation of the telecoms industry. Prior to Qvantel, Jukka held key leadership positions in Business Development, Product Management, and Program Management at the likes of Nokia, Digia and Netwell.

 

 

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