Meta Platforms may have posted what analysts are calling a particularly disappointing third quarter, with revenues falling 4% to only just under $28bn. But the company’s future is still very clearly building the metaverse to an ecosystem with a billion users by 2030, and addressing this community is not only the ambition of Mark Zuckerberg, but also the comms and IT industry, as confirmed in the setting up of a massive MIMO metaverse partnership between the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and Intel.
As articulated at the FYUZ 2022 event by Meta’s strategy and operations lead for connectivity, Nathan South, the journey towards the metaverse is paving the way for new use cases along with advances on current ones. However, compelling and ultimately successful experiences require increased network performance on key metrics such as download speed and round-trip-time latency, as well as the monitoring of metrics such as jitter, upload speed and person-to-person latency.
“The challenge for us is that we’re talking different networks, different devices and different locations,” he said. “That’s the challenge we’ve been on for several years now.”
“What is changing is the fact that now we’re talking multiple people communicating and interacting simultaneously with the need for bi-directional data. We need to collaborate when defining the key metrics. [We must ask] what are the requirements? How will we look at different networks operating together? How do we identify weak points? How do we fix those weak points? That’s what we want. We think that we can get there through collaboration across the industry, across telcos.”
For its part, TIP outlined the fundamental vital element that connectivity would play in making the metaverse a success. It added that cellular networks require more capacity and intelligence to support the metaverse and enhanced reality applications for both consumers and businesses, and that massive MIMO (mMIMO) can deliver more capacity – and thanks to beamforming capabilities, concentrate bandwidth to devices, providing the capability to deliver metaverse experiences from a single 5G radio. Yet, it also stressed that currently, there were no mMIMO whitebox services available with extensive end-to-end capabilities to satiate this demand.
To address this, TIP is collaborating with Intel and Analog Devices to enable the metaverse with O-RAN massive MIMO (mMIMO) offerings, as part of the TIP OpenRAN project group.
The collaboration will result in a 5G mMIMO Open RAN Radio Unit (O-RU) whitebox, to be distributed by Intel and able to support O-RAN’s workgroup 4 IoT profile. The whitebox will be powered by Intel Agilex and will leverage Intel’s advanced beamforming technology and Analog Devices’ RadioVerse System on Chip software defined transceiver.
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Using its programmable, silicon and advanced beamforming technology, the whitebox will be equipped with a ready-to-deploy mMIMO wideband implementation. The mMIMO O-RU was conceived as a 32-antenna element wideband standalone radio unit supporting O-RAN interfaces and advanced software applications.
TIP also sees MNOs, OEMs and ODMs as being able to use the O-RU Whitebox to leverage the O-RAN ecosystem, extensive IP library, and processing power of Agilex to develop bespoke O-RUs, benefiting from reduced time-to-market and CAPEX. The mMIMO O-RU whitebox opens the door to a wider playing field of system integrators, giving operators more options to meet their specific requirements while helping mitigate supplier lock-in.