April 21, 2023

CSPs Can Play a Central Role in the $5 Trillion Metaverse Economy. But Will They?

Experts believe immersive digital worlds will form the next iteration of the internet. Can telcos help shape this new metaverse era – or will they merely be the 'pipes' that transport the data?

Which company is best placed to build a successful social network for the Metaverse? Social media giant Meta, or a South Korean mobile operator?

Most people would have little hesitation in betting on the former. But early results suggest otherwise. In November 2022, SK Telecom launched its metaverse platform ‘ifland’ across 49 countries and regions. Users access ifland via a mobile app and can create an avatar and visit 18 different types of virtual spaces.

By late 2022, ifland had 12.8 million monthly active users. At the same time, reports suggested Meta's own immersive platform - Horizon Worlds - had around 200,000.

It’s too early to draw any conclusions from these two very early experiments. But the wider point is this: Participation in the vast Metaverse opportunity is up for grabs. And CSPs are well placed to play an important role at the heart of it.

This was the big topic under discussion in a webinar hosted by TM Forum: Hard Talk Series 5 – Telecoms and the Metaverse.

The session's participants were:

  • Dean Ramsay, Principal Analyst of TM Forum,
  • Bob Titus, Chief Technology Officer, Netcracker
  • Brian Smyth, 2nd degree, MD and Global Lead - Innovation & Metaverse, Accenture

Five Trillion Reasons to Participate

There is an obvious financial incentive for CSPs to lean hard into the Metaverse. According to McKinsey, immersive worlds could generate up to $5 trillion in value by 2030. As Ramsay pointed out, the current total value of all mobile services is around $1.6 trillion.

This huge valuation is predicated on the idea that every enterprise and SMB will use Metaverse interfaces to reimagine the way they engage with customers and partners. Organizations will create new digital destinations that make it easier to get work done. It’s why the Metaverse is sometimes called ‘the internet of place’.

Clearly, businesses will need high-speed 5G connectivity to deliver these experiences. That brings in the mobile network operators. But, as the panellists all agreed, there is so much more value that telcos and CSPs can unlock besides mere bandwidth.

Bob Titus discussed CSPs having strong subscriber meta data, and billing and charging relationships with customers.  He also noted that on the business side CSPs have the ability to build a partner ecosystem they can leverage in multiple ways, such as offering analytics-as-a-service, digital-twin-as-a-service and more in addition to their connectivity."

Upgrade the Culture – and the Infrastructure

Titus also highlighted that telcos need to make an internal cultural shift if they are to maximize this opportunity. "They are not the only ones wanting to play in this space. It is new, and there will be caution. So they need an innovation mindset and this requires new thinking. CSPs must look beyond 12 or 24 months ahead and think about having a Metaverse strategy for the long term."

While an innovative mindset is critical, so is the IT infrastructure to support it. "From a systems and operations perspective, they key words are speed and agility," said Titus. "As CSPs move to cloud native BSS and OSS and migrate their internal IT to a devs and sec/ops methodology, they will be able to rapidly change the functionality and services they offer, whether that's customer profiles, identity management, new ways of charging, rapid on-boarding of new partners and services. All of these functions are enabled by IT platforms.”

"No one knows what use cases will need to be supported in 12, 24 or 36 months. But with the right foundation in place, CSPs can react with speed and agility."

You can watch the entire TM Forum webinar here.


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