By José Ignacio Díaz, Senior Telecommunications Analyst for IDC Chile

The metaverse is a hypothetical idea of ​​a futuristic, immersive virtual world running on the Internet and facilitated through the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. People would create avatars that interact with virtual landscapes and buy products using cryptocurrencies.

The term “metaverse” was first used by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel SnowCrash (1992), as a conflation of “meta”, meaning “after” or “beyond” and “universe”, and we have since seen glimpses of what it might look like in movies like Matrix (1999) and the virtual community Second Life (2003).

We have seen large companies like Roblox, Fortnite, microsoft Y Facebook prepare for what is to come by investing in technologies that will enable the metaverse such as virtual reality headsets, IoT, and Blockchain. Facebook even went so far as to rebrand the company as ‘Meta’. Creating the metaverse will involve the confluence of multiple technologies, but more importantly it will require a highly reliable and fast backbone, and that is where 5G will be key.

The metaverse will adopt different formats. There will be the fully virtual experience, consumed through virtual reality (VR) headsets, where digital avatars will interact with digital landscapes and places. But there will also be experiences with a strong grounding in the physical world with digital overlays, experienced through augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR). An example is pokemon go, which is played through a mobile phone or augmented reality glasses. In any case, our experiences and interactions will be enhanced by virtual content. Global AR headset sales have grown steadily, increasing 390% in 3Q21 vs. 3Q20. IDC forecasts that global spending on AR/VR will reach $20 billion by 2022.

The metaverse will be facilitated through new technologies like Web 3.0, or Web3, which is a general idea for a new decentralized Internet based on blockchain token-based publics and economy, artificial intelligence, extended reality (XR) devices, and digital twins, which are virtual models designed to accurately mirror a physical object.

Web 3.0 promises to be the biggest disruptor because it will challenge the existing reality of ownership on the web. Today’s Internet applications, such as social media platforms, are centrally owned by companies that handle code updates and other decisions.

Web 3.0 will have a decentralized ownership structure due to the unbundled nature of blockchains and will make users a central part of the new Internet economy. We are already seeing the emergence of Web 3.0 equivalents to the centralized Web 2.0 applications we know: Filecoin (Dropbox), Brave (Chrome), and Metamask (PayPal); meanwhile, new decentralized operating systems like Ethereum will offer alternatives to operating systems like Windows.

VR and AR devices used in the metaverse will act as links between the physical and virtual worlds and will rely on emerging technologies such as sensors Lidar (which emit pulses of light that bounce off objects), cameras, haptic suits, and gloves. Computing needs will move from devices to edge servers, where graphics can be rendered in real time. This will make the devices lighter, have longer battery life and be available at an affordable cost to users.

All this processing power will require highly reliable, high-performance, low-latency networks. 5G is the only technology that can meet these requirements today. Today there are several wireless connectivity technologies: the most popular are Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 4G cellular technologies. Bluetooth lacks the range, speed and reliability, Wi-Fi offers the speed but can suffer from congestion and latency when multiple devices are connected simultaneously. 5G technology offers the necessary speed, range, reliability and latency, as well as the ability to segment the network to assign certain segments of the network exclusively to the metaverse.

Why are these things important? If a user moves their head in a pure VR scenario, visuals need to be projected in 20 milliseconds to avoid motion sickness, while in AR a response time of less than 30 milliseconds is required to ensure that virtual objects appear spatially anchored in space. the physical environment.


There are many challenges ahead to make the metaverse possible. In terms of networks, ubiquitous access will be necessary, that is, constant coverage and capacity, and seamless handover between different networks. We will need widespread availability of XR devices that are lightweight and affordable for users and cloud edge capabilities that can process and render data to provide an optimal experience.

The metaverse will be made up of multiple players: telecom service providers, device manufacturers, cloud hyperscalers, and application developers. Cooperation between all of these stakeholders will be necessary to create standards that ensure interoperability within this complex metaverse ecosystem.

Non-technological challenges will also have to be faced. Privacy standards will need to be created to protect children from harmful content and experiences. As well as, security technology will be needed to protect the identity of your avatar and filter or block continuous advertising.

Chile is one of the most advanced countries in Latin America in terms of its 5G deployment, reaching 545,323 users in the first quarter of 2022, the same figure that it took 12 months to reach with 4G. According to the government plan, operators should reach 90% coverage of the population in three years, which gives an idea of ​​when the networks will be ready to support the metaverse.

The first industries likely to step into this new virtual world will be entertainment (video games), retail (shopping experiences), and those that use immersive experiences for training purposes. Before the metaverse can encompass multiple aspects of our lives and become a profitable business model for advertisers, a virtual economy ecosystem will need to evolve and mature. But as we saw during the pandemic, the pace of digital transformation is accelerating and the metaverse could be here sooner than we think.

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