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5G networks will help make the metaverse real

"The metaverse is closer than you think."

That's what the Consumer Technology Association's VP of research, Steve Koenig, said in a presentation on Monday night.

The building blocks to this fabled connection between real and virtual worlds are already here and waiting to be connected. According to the CTA, consumer spending on VR headsets and eyewear is expected to reach $774 million for 2021, as reported earlier by Light Reading's Jeff Baumgartner. "AR headset/eyewear spending is expected to eclipse $78 million for 2021, and jump 175%, to $214 million, in 2022," he wrote.

On the Light Reading podcast this week we present an interview recorded on December 28, just before we took a short New Year's Day break. Light Reading's Baumgartner and I talked to the Consumer Technology Association's market research manager and tech analyst, Sayon Deb, about the metaverse, the evolution of consumer electronics and where service provider networks fit in.

Deb discussed why the metaverse is important for businesses and consumers and what kinds of experiences it could unlock now and in the next few years. He also underscored its importance for carriers, noting that one of the big moments for service provider networks will be when we've got the kind of high-bandwidth and low-latency mobile networks that will allow us to use a fully-featured virtual reality headset – or some similar kind of hardware – on the move. "That's really what's going to enable people to be a little bit more plugged in to the metaverse; you will enable it to become a more natural thing if you don't have to plug in every single time you're outside the house," he said.

Can 5G networks help move VR hardware out of the living room?  (Photo by Zhai Weikai/Costfoto/Sipa USA/Alamy Stock Photo)

Can 5G networks help move VR hardware out of the living room?
(Photo by Zhai Weikai/Costfoto/Sipa USA/Alamy Stock Photo)

The 5G connection

Broad coverage of superfast 5G connections, he said, will be "that tipping point for VR and AR." He also noted that the smartphone, while allowing peeks into the metaverse, will yield to other kinds of devices to provide a more complete metaverse experience. "You're not really going to get the experience until you have the actual kind of the hardware to let you connect to it," he said.

Deb's comments, while optimistic, seem to be in line with the intentions of the big tech giants looking to dominate the consumer electronics landscape. "The actions by companies like Google, Apple and Meta could portend a big technology platform battle beyond smartphones," wrote Light Reading's Mike Dano in December. "It's still early days, but for 5G network operators, the developing trend could lead to new categories of portable, wearable devices that would use a lot of 5G connectivity."

One correction we need to add to the podcast: This was recorded just before CES scaled back its show a little to help ease concerns about the rapid spread of the latest COVID-19 variant. The show is taking place in Las Vegas from January 5-7, 2022. Some parts of the show are online and you can find out more at https://www.ces.tech.

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Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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