Telcos should focus their metaverse efforts on the enterprise sector – Openet CEO

  • Operators have significant potential to succeed in enabling or providing metaverse services to enterprises, says Niall Norton, CEO at Amdocs-owned Openet
  • He advises telcos to focus on new network capabilities and edge applications to reap the potential metaverse benefits
  • And explains why some telcos are better positioned to build their own metaverse versions while others will probably fail

Telecoms operators are well placed to succeed with their metaverse strategies if they focus on business applications, according to Niall Norton, a general manager at Amdocs and CEO at Amdocs-owned charging and policy control specialist Openet. But he highlighted there are numerous requirements in terms of network capabilities, standardisation and figuring out the right value proposition if they are to reap the benefits in the emerging virtual realm.

According to Norton, the metaverse future is broadening into “the business metaverse” where augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and combinations of the two are being used by enterprises for training, collaboration, and to enable enhanced productivity, for example.

“I personally think the business metaverse is much more straightforward and much more likely to happen because there’s money in it” compared to the consumer- and device-focused metaverse which, in his words, “resembles the early days of 3G, 4G or 5G” when some handsets were capable of handling the technology and others were not.

Norton highlighted that regardless of the type of metaverse offering – business or consumer – there is a strong need for seamless broadband applications from the network to the edge.

In his opinion, network slicing only allows efficiency on the radio but is not an inhibitor for the metaverse. “It’s not nearly as important as that edge capability and the enablement of enterprises to do what they want to do on their [own] capabilities”, added Openet’s chief.

Regardless of whether telcos are eager to become providers of metaverse offerings that they resell to others, or they are content with being the enabler of other people’s metaverses, Norton insisted they need to offer control capabilities that enable varying degrees of service availability.

“The service experience needs to be programmable [all the way] from the experience provider back onto the telco network. You need to expose the network in programmable exposed artefacts to the enterprise market and to the metaverse providers. That doesn’t exist today but it’s not very far away”, he said. 

According to Norton, when the metaverse becomes “truly ubiquitous”, the network elements at the edge should be exposed automatically to meet the expected rise in demand from different businesses.

He explained that most operators with which Amdocs is currently working are now focused on prioritising edge applications more than efforts to enable network slicing because, he said, the latter is not a prerequisite to rolling out “cool services” in the metaverse.

Norton added that “the perennial big question, as always, is going to be – what standards are people using?” He cautioned that customers will probably have several metaverse experiences at the same time and “the more disjointed that is, the slower it will be to be rolled out, because it’s just very hard to predict and to have a guarantee of quality of service or quality of experience”.

In terms of metaverse capabilities for businesses, partner management will also be of utmost importance as each industry vertical is expected to have its own independent software vendors.

Telcos are also, according to Norton, advised to have a network that can automatically forecast and detect the intent of what a service is trying to do, so that they can reroute traffic and balance it in a way that means service expectations are met.

Can operators succeed in developing their own metaverses?

Norton believes some telcos are better suited to building their own version of the metaverse, but this very much depends on geographical circumstances and the role a telco plays in the society in which it operates.

“The analogy I have is watching the telcos who tried to develop digital brands to compete with the super apps like WeChat: Very few of them were able to pull it off because they use the same business processes to develop the digital brand as they use for their main brand,” explained Norton.

He added that operators will probably fail if they apply the same business thinking and processes to their metaverse approach. “If you adopt a more service-centric piece, [which is a] different way of doing business, you’re engaged with suppliers in a different way than before – the reaction times are incredibly fast compared to what is, comparatively speaking, slow in just a mobile network. If people go with eyes wide open about what’s involved to be really successful, some of them will be”, he said.

Additionally, if the value proposition around data protection and security “can be beefed up a lot” by the telcos, they will have a much greater chance of succeeding. 

“I think all [telcos] will be very successful hosts. I think a lot of them will be business metaverse players and potentially look to provide, for at least some industry verticals or some services, their version of the metaverse. On the consumer side, I don’t think many of them are going to be there at all,” explained the Openet CEO.

He offered Philippines-based telco Globe Telecom as an example, as the company has managed to grow its portfolio outside of its traditional telco services by launching a financial services business, GCash, for the unbanked section of the population.

“In that scenario, where you’ve got a brand that is trusted by people to be something that they’re comfortable relying on,” there’s a much greater chance of success, he concluded.

Norton’s view resembles that of Phil Kendall, director of the service provider group at Strategy Analytics, who recently shared his views on how telcos might make the most of their metaverse opportunities. He pointed to South Korea, China and Japan as the three markets where operators are performing better in terms of metaverse efforts. He said this is because they “successfully positioned their brands as much broader consumer brands – operators across those markets have succeeded in a number of ‘adjacent’ areas ranging from instant messaging to e-commerce and mobile financial services to music and video streaming to IoT applications” – see Will mobile operators jump on the metaverse bandwagon?

TelecomTV also spoke to Niall Norton about the acquisition of Openet by Amdocs two years ago and how the two companies managed to bury the hatchet (so to speak) after a long-running legal dispute - see Openet holds no grudges against parent Amdocs, says CEO.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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