BT’s Division X has the metaverse in its sights

Alexandra Foster, director at BT’s Division X, at the opening of Immersive Spaces in London, UK.

Alexandra Foster, director at BT’s Division X, at the opening of Immersive Spaces in London, UK.

  • Division X, BT’s private 5G networks & edge unit, is increasingly invested in developing immersive services, including those related to the metaverse
  • The unit also looks to capitalise on its recently launched service, Immersive Spaces, as well as Digital Vision, its computer vision solution
  • Other areas of development include digital twin applications in manufacturing
  • Its big picture plan is to bring 5G and IoT to life

Spearheading its mission to bring 5G to life with the introduction of its Immersive Spaces offering, the arm of BT Group that focuses on ‘unique customer solutions’ for enterprises is already seeking ways to develop useful and attractive services for the metaverse-driven era.

Speaking to TelecomTV on the sidelines of the unit’s commercial launch of Immersive Spaces, Division X’s director, Alexandra Foster (pictured above), and some senior colleagues provided an update on developments for the unit, which is currently undergoing significant changes: Just 16 months after its inception, it is being folded into the product team at BT’s Business division and in June will lose its lead executive, managing director Marc Overton – see What’s up with… BT’s Division X, Qualcomm, Vodafone.

But the current upheaval isn’t slowing down activity at the future-focused unit. Among the key issues driving new developments at Division X is “what the future of the metaverse might mean,” noted Foster.

Ian Robertson, technical principal at Division X, noted that the unit is looking into “different ways of actually travelling within the metaverse, different sorts of technology for hand tracking, for example, and also bringing in the power of things like edge compute as well to make sure that we actually have enhanced processing power to really take those experiences up to the next level”.

Experiences “in a verse”, whether it is “an immersive verse, a digital verse or a metaverse”, all have applicability, said Foster. “They all have the ability to transform economies and provide a return on investment for those organisations that use them or return on investment for those organisations that provide them,” she assured.

Immersing into advanced experiences

Having commercially launched its first immersive offering in the shape of a mobile unit delivering audio-visual content (the main proposition of Immersive Spaces), Foster believes BT’s mobile network has what it takes to cater for other metaverse-like applications and experiences.

“As with any technology, it’s absolutely about using the power of our network to be able to create the connectivity. Because as you start to think about any immersive experience – whether it’s the immersive experiences that we’ve just been showcasing [last week], whether it’s immersive experiences around digital twins, or whether it’s that roadmap to full metaverse-like experiences, you absolutely need the power of having connectivity, you absolutely need the power of security. And for us, it’s around bringing partners, bringing our own innovation and being able to use the power of the network and security to wrap around all of that to be able to bring that to market”, explained Foster.

In addition to Immersive Spaces, Division X is also working with partners on digital twins – particularly in manufacturing. The unit is already offering commercial digital twin services to business and public sector customers via its Partnerships Advisory Board partners.

In terms of its Immersive Spaces offering, Division X is in talks with manufacturers, smart ports, retailers, gyms, yoga studios and councils, which all have expressed interest in the service, according to Foster and Robertson.

While the Division X experts failed to provide figures of the investments in Immersive Spaces or any other projects the unit is currently involved in, Foster noted that BT has dedicated £2.5bn to R&D efforts within its innovation centre, Adastral Park, over the past five years. “No one segment has its own slice, it’s all part of the greater investment that we do in technology,” she stated.

While it is unclear how many of Division X’s team are involved in immersive service developments, there is no skill set shortage for that part of the telco’s operations, because Adastral Park has become “a magnet for talent”. Metaverse and immersive experiences using 5G, as well as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), are a centrepiece for other telco giants in Europe too, including Orange and Telefónica.

Other focus areas

Foster stressed that Division X has a main focus on “pushing out solutions that bring 5G to life”, as well as offering IoT connectivity solutions in addition to its recent launch of internet of things (IoT) national roaming – see What’s up with… BT, Vodafone, European telco M&A.

According to Foster, the division’s work involves bringing solutions that utilise private 5G and IoT, “from asset tracking to vehicle telematics”, smart spaces and its work on Digital Vision (a computer vision solution launched in partnership with IT services giant Atos to “revolutionise industries”).

“We’ve launched an awful lot already. It takes nine months to make a baby, but we’ve done an awful lot in the nine months that Division X has been going”, noted Foster, highlighting that the unit is focused on “proliferating far more segments than we have at the moment and [is] just making the most out of 5G, IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), all of our Immersive Spaces, Digital Vision and more”.

She stressed the importance of product development to be “in lockstep” with the rest of BT and of ensuring that offerings are “secure and sustainable”.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV