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Europe’s Digital Infrastructure Metaverse Play

The metaverse is infrastructure. The idea of a virtual world that can be enjoyed in real time providing trillions of Dollars of brand-new GDP all depends on the deployment of digital real estate across the planet to ensure accessibility, speed and ultimate user experience. And Europe seems to be getting its house sorted for this digital evolutionary step. JSA Media Consultant João Marques Lima explains.

As Phillip Marangella, CMO at EdgeConneX has recently noted: “The [metaverse] vision cannot become reality without an infrastructure that extends from core to edge and sustainably scales to deliver this new kind of universe wherever humans choose to go.”

A real-time, immersive virtual world that will connect not only those already using online services but also those who are still disconnected will require a concentrated effort.

Raja Koduri, head of Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, recently told Quartz that we are only just seeing the first instances in many shapes and forms. 

“The compute that you need to render a photo-realistic you of me or your environment needs to be continued anywhere,” he said. “That means that your PCs, your phones, your edge networks, your cell stations that have some compute, and your cloud computing needs to be kind of working in conjunction like an orchestra—between all of these three elements that deliver that kind of beautiful metaverse. 

“It will take time. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, us, NVIDIA are getting this infrastructure to be kind of omnipresent, but it will take time and effort.”

He then continued: “For what we imagined in Snow Crash, what we imagined in Ready Player One, for those experiences to be delivered, the computational infrastructure that is needed is 1,000 times more than what we currently have.”

One thousand times more. Just think about that. The world’s current digital footprint multiplied by a four-digit percentage that will generate large sums of capital expenditure. 

Economic studies have predicted that the global metaverse market will reach anywhere between €597.3 billion and $1.5 trillion by 2030, with the European continent set to enjoy a fair share of the pie.

Many companies have invested in the creation of the metaverse. Meta, for example, has announced annual investment of €8.8 billion in the metaverse. Microsoft has bought Activision Blizzard (a company owning online games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft) for nearly €61.6 billion, with the perspective that gaming will be a big part of the development of the metaverse. Qualcomm has established a €88 million metaverse fund to further develop VR and AR technologies.

Europeans are also interested in the metaverse, and its possibilities as recent research has shown. Individuals in France and the UK in particular are the most curious about what it is, and what it means for their futures.

France tops the continental table for average online searches per million internet users, according to research by Walkme.com. The company utilised the latest data from online analytics tool SEMrush to establish which countries in Europe are most curious about the metaverse – and found that an average 1,020 in every million French internet users had searched for the metaverse. This is just ahead of UK users – at an average of 942.


The infrastructure world

With the economics, interest and clear path of opportunity clear, the metaverse really turns around to the question of how we will make it happen. And the answer is infrastructure. 

“The ‘true believers’ of the metaverse seem to assume that the necessary infrastructure upgrades will simply fall into place as the natural result of technological progress,” according to Wellington Lordelo, Senior Manager, Segment Marketing at Equinix.

“I question this line of thinking: enterprises certainly have the opportunity to deploy a metaverse-ready digital infrastructure, but they need to be proactive about making it happen.”

The metaverse will need a strong terrestrial and subsea fibre network, connecting thousands of landing points on thousands of shores across the world. This will originate a boom in private networks deployments all around, something we are already witnessing in Europe with the latest announcements from, for example, EllaLink in Portugal, Bulk Networks in the Nordics, and Unidata in Italy.

These fibre routes will be supported by cell towers. Millions of them. This is also where 5G and future generations of connectivity networks will aid in further delivering this new zetta-economy. 

As a kind of “history repeats itself” scenario, data centres will play a key role in the metaverse by closing the loop. Big or small, tier 1 or 4, these infrastructures will help store and process – making use of the latest AI and ML technologies – our metaverse and real life.

But there is one more aspect: edge computing facilities and nodes. These will become the pores of the metaverse, absorbing and sending out data as close to the source as possible. 

Digital infrastructure really provides the foundation path to uplift efficiency, ease provisioning and enhance accessibility. And Europe has grasped this with the European Commission also getting involved in the metaverse from an early stage.


The Brussels’ take

Big economic opportunities always grab the attention of politics, and the metaverse is no exception. In Brussels, the European Commission has been quick to jump on the bandwagon and has begun works to foster metaverse infrastructure deployments as well as work on new legislation for this virtual age.

“In the new virtual spaces, the amount of data being exchanged – and harvested – through these technologies will be of greater magnitude than ever,” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, has said. “Completely virtual commercial transactions are growing rapidly and will include new payment systems (digital, crypto or traditional) and forms of identification and ownership (unique identifiers, NFTs and blockchain).

“The new virtual worlds will put under even more intense pressure the connectivity infrastructure which is needed to allow all these developments to happen. The current situation, exacerbated during the Covid pandemic, shows a paradox of increasing volumes of data being carried on the infrastructures but decreasing revenues and appetite to invest to strengthen them and make them resilient. The current economic climate sees stagnating rewards for investment and increasing deployment costs for pure connectivity infrastructure.”

He continued adding that in Europe, all market players benefiting from the digital transformation should make a fair and proportionate contribution to public goods, services and infrastructures, for the benefit of all Europeans.

“We will launch a comprehensive reflection and consultation on the vision and business model of the infrastructure that we need to carry the volumes of data and the instant and continuous interactions which will happen in the metaverses,” Breton concluded.


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