The Metaverse is a vision of how the next generation of the internet will operate. The Metaverse could change not only the human interactions with technology but also with each other and the world around them. Some side effects on national and individual identities could happen in online societies and digital ecosystems where people spend tremendous amounts of time in a parallel world.
It could be also translated into an augmented reality approach combining an integration of the physical with the digital world. Asia and the Middle East are leading the way with their initiatives in Dubai and South Korea. Companies like Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft are the leaders and in direct competition, counting on their enormous technological resources to design their own Metaverse offerings.
Now it’s the time for early and late majority players (Chart 1) to design the right strategies and proper product offering although the technology is still expensive and non affordable to the mass. For example 3D glasses, VR headsets with motion tracking devices, or even haptic suits, are not that affordable yet and readily accessible even with enough content to penetrate the mass.
How does this work?
The Metaverse might probably provide users with a single avatar or something like a unique digital identity, which allows them to access an integrated digital ecosystem (Fortnite game qualifies as a kind of prototype Metaverse) that will look like a parallel world. This ecosystem could potentially have its own currency, property and possessions, which could be a digitally altered form of reality, a virtual world, or some combination of the two.
What is the opportunity for Mobile operators and other players?
As Metaverse will continue to shape in 2023, operators need to decide whether they will prepare their strategies to join the second wave of Metaverse, 2025-2030, when this ecosystem will become wider and more user- friendly.
Mobile operators need to develop the proper Metaverse offerings, services and partnerships in a combination with higher-value end plans, targeting end user customers
There are several routes that could be followed in order to develop a Metaverse Strategy as shown in Chart 1:
- Operators have access to large customer bases, leveraging the Metaverse to upsell higher value data plans in the beginning as well as Metaverse related devices in the near future.
- Operators could also act as B2B Metaverse tech partners, helping enterprises to use and develop Metaverse applications, providing robust network and high-end computing capabilities.
- Finally, operators could develop the proper Metaverse offerings and services, targeting end user customers, both consumers, and enterprises. In the early stages, the fastest route is to sell bundled services, third party Metaverse content and operator’s services. Operators that build their own Metaverse system (SK Telecom) and/or partner with the right companies will have a competitive advantage, but that is not a mature strategy yet.
Is there a need for Metaverse regulation?
There is a grey landscape regarding regulation that needs to be analyzed and anticipate the rapid technological advances. As we are in the early stages of Mataverse, there is a good opportunity for governments and international organizations to develop policy frameworks. These could consider a range of human rights and legal issues, such as the level of monitoring, data collection, and advertising permissions, to the protection of vulnerable people including children.
Europe wants to shape the future of virtual worlds with rules and taxes, which are under development. These include implementing the landmark agreements on the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) which turns the EU into a global leader in regulating the digital space, making it safer and more open. The scope is to shape from the outset the development of truly safe and thriving metaverses, based on the European values, fostering the virtual worlds in the threefold: People, technologies and infrastructure. Private metaverses should develop based on interoperable standards and no single private player, preventing the private monopolies, setting its terms and conditions. Innovators and technologies should be allowed to thrive unhindered.
Strategy International with a team of experts, policymakers and technologists, could help national regulators be more proactive, understanding the Metaverse technology basics and challenges.
Strategy International with a team of experts, policymakers and technologists, could help national regulators be more proactive, understanding the Metaverse technology basics and challenges so that they are not operating in the dark. The scope is to respect international human rights law, focusing on the freedom of expression. National regulators should also be independent of government to protect against abuse of power and strong market players. Some governments except of the EU Commission are already one step ahead, choosing to adapt existing legislation or creating new laws such as the UK’s culture secretary that has stated that the Metaverse activities will fall within the scope of its Online Safety Bill.
Closing now is the momentum for governments and policymakers as Metaverse is in the early to advanced stage but is rapidly developing and could become a revenue opportunity for Mobile Operators. Working with experts and think of the digital regulation should be more agile and predictive. That could prevent the Metaverse from risks, magnifying existing internet dangers or creating new ones.
Metaverse in Focus: Consumer Behaviour and Operator Views Survey Dashboard 2023, GSMA Intelligence 2023