From an ICT perspective, the metaverse is the Internet’s next evolutionary step. With connectivity, computing, and AI at the core of its digital infrastructure, the metaverse will come in to being on the back of multiple nascent technologies, including AR and VR (XR), blockchain, cloud computing, AI, digital twins, 3D, IoT, human-machine interaction, digital currency, and Web 3.0.
Connectivity and the Metaverse
From connecting people to connecting things to the intelligent connectivity of everything, network requirements are continuing to skyrocket. Huawei's Intelligent World 2030 report estimates that by 2030, there will be more than 200 billion global connections. Average monthly data use on wireless networks will jump 40 times from today to exceed 600 GB per person. And 55% of households will enjoy at least Gigabit fiber broadband, a 50-fold increase over 2022, with average monthly data usage on fixed networks per household increasing eight-fold to hit 1.3 TB. At the same time, XR users will top 1 billion, with interactions between the physical and virtual worlds reaching new heights with ubiquitous hyper-real experiences.
In turn, we will see huge advances in network technologies.
1. Interactive networks: Next-gen networks will support human-machine interactions that deliver hyper-real experiences. In the physical world, networks will be able to collect data from multiple modalities, including language, touch, light perception, and brain-computing interfaces. In the virtual world, systems will be able to simulate multi-modal interactions such as 3D vision, touch, hearing, and even smell and taste, and replicate these sensations.
2. Integrated sensing and communication: Through the integration of communication and sensing, networks will be able to reproduce reality to create a parallel world and react to reality through the application of virtualization technologies. Wireless sensing precision is improving from sub-meter to centimeter and millimeter levels. Alongside radar and millimeter wave technologies, this will enable ultra-sensitive, multi-source converged sensing and positioning, realizing ultra-high-precision positioning for applications such as connected vehicles, drones, unmanned security, environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, medical imaging, and industrial inspections.
Huawei, for example, has developed low-cost, ultra-narrow linewidth lasers for optical fiber communications networks. Optical fibers are capable of supporting the intelligent sensing of vibration, magnetism, electricity, heat, sound, light, and air pressure. Therefore, when paired with AI, optical fiber communication can enable highly accurate identification in numerous scenarios such as smart cities, smart factories, and smart campuses. In the healthcare field, integrated Wi-Fi and AI is poised to power improvements in detection capabilities in areas like respiration rate, heart rate, emotion recognition, and even detect when an older person falls. Integrating Wi-Fi with infrared and radar will enable posture and gesture recognition for interactive gaming and converged intrusion detection for perimeter security.
3. Computing networks: Today’s networks provide content services like video and IoT and typically require 100-ms latency and a 30-fps frame rate, with most of the data downstream. In the world of the metaverse and digital twin, networks will mainly support applications like machine vision and holographic technology, and most data traffic will be upstream. More services will be processed at the edge rather than in the cloud, and typically require 10-ms latency and a 120-fps frame rate. To achieve this, networks will be integrated with efficient computing capabilities, massive amounts of data, and ubiquitous intelligence, forming converged computing networks.
4. Deterministic experience: Past networks used the best-effort method to ensure consumer and enterprise Internet access. In the future virtual world, gaming, VR services, and applications, such as city management and industry production powered by digital twins, will require a deterministic experience to address the uncertain services of the future. Huawei uses end-to-end slicing to deliver logical private networks and services for vertical industries, and deploys clustered DCs and edge computing to provide differentiated latency assurance. This means 1-ms, 10-ms, and 100-ms latency for intra-city, inter-city, and backbone network services, respectively. Private networks deliver 99.999% reliability, meeting the requirements of industrial production control systems, and enabling enterprises to migrate all assets to cloud.
5. Cognitive network: Much like tools are an extension of our hands, ICT can metaphorically extend the human nervous system, via a huge variety of connections, to enable the planet to operate like the human brain. ICT networks have experienced incredible evolution, from telegraphs and analog phones right up to data communications, the Internet of Things, and future digital twin networks. The cognitive capabilities of ICT networks are strengthening, which in turn will underpin the metaverse.
6. Cubic broadband: Individuals, families, and organizations have passed through the eras of voice and 100 Mbit/s access to the gigabit era. The 3D virtual metaverse requires 10 Gbit/s access to support seamless connectivity between the physical and virtual worlds. Sub-100 GHz wideband supports 10 Gbit/s access for individuals, 200G PON supports 10 Gbit/s access for families, and millimeter-wave Wi-Fi supports 10 Gbit/s access for organizations. The combination of wireless networks, optical fiber, and low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites enables seamless and continuous space-air-ground integrated 3D coverage. This delivers a guaranteed broadband experience for ground applications, low-altitude drones, and high-altitude aircraft. Access, metro, backbone, and data center networks are all entering the era of 10 Gbit/s access.
Therefore, metaverse-oriented communications networks that connect tens of billions of people and hundreds of billions of things will have six features: cubic broadband network, deterministic experience, AI-native, harmonized communication and sensing (HCS), security and trustworthiness, and green and low-carbon.
Therefore, metaverse-oriented communications networks that connect tens of billions of people and hundreds of billions of things will have six defining features: cubic broadband network, deterministic experience, AI-native, harmonized communication and sensing (HCS), security and trustworthiness, and green and low-carbon.
Part two of this series will look at how computing and AI, alongside connectivity, will underpin the development of the metaverse.