In a Preemptive Strike, China Mobile’s “5G Super Network,” GTVerse, Shows How Ultra-Low Latency, Edge Computing, and High Data Connections Can Meet the Impending Demands of the Metaverse and XR

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By Michael Inouye | 4Q 2023 | IN-7093

Despite attention shifting away from metaverse, the buildup to this future and developments within the Extended Reality (XR) markets continue to push forward. China Mobile has demonstrated and deployed network services that target XR and metaverse applications by offering high data rates and sub-20 Millisecond (ms) latency. While still location specific, the recent shift to Mixed Reality (MR) and spatial computing brings together the virtual and real worlds, which will enable truer metaverse use cases (than virtual alone) and more opportunities for devices like XR viewers. In time, these trends will create an inflection point in network demand, bringing heightened value to new strategies and planning through technologies like digital twins.

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China Mobile Shows Its "5G Super Network," GTVerse, to Target the Metaverse with Ultra-Low Latency, Edge Computing, and High Data Connections


In a recent ABI Insight (“Metaverse Not Ready for Most, but Significant Steps Made in August 2023 Towards This Future”), new announcements in the month of August brought attention to two of the key pillars of the metaverse (devices/interfaces and Three-Dimensional (3D) markets). In September, China Mobile’s announcement of its “5G super network” (GTVerse) speaks to the third pillar (network convergence). Network convergence is key to support and enable in-public metaverse use cases (e.g., offering and managing ultra-low latency high data connections) and, in time, will allow for new hybrid devices (compute on-device/edge/cloud), which will bring down barriers to entry related to pricing and form factors of key devices like smart glasses.

China Mobile’s GTVerse network has been deployed at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium and reportedly supports network speeds up to 100 Megabits per Second (Mbps) with network transmission latency below 20 Milliseconds (ms)—key specifications to support cloud Extended Reality (XR) applications up to 4K resolution at 90 Frames per Second (fps). GTVerse speaks to the key tenets of network convergence, bringing together intelligence (e.g., data offloading technologies and resource management), edge computing, and robust connectivity, but edge cases like this also speak to the limitations in some of the grander visions for the metaverse and XR.

The Cloud and Edge Are Important, but Computing Will Be Hybrid


Leveraging 5G for immersive location-based experiences is not new. Verizon, for example, has been instrumental in bringing 5G to many stadiums and arenas throughout the U.S. market, which included support for XR and interactive experiences—other Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) worldwide have similarly deployed 5G to enable location-centric use cases. China Mobile’s announcement, however, puts a specific target on XR and the metaverse, which includes cloud and hybrid cloud opportunities. While the initial China Mobile case is limited to one location, the goal is to enable metaverse experiences more broadly.

The value in enabling XR and metaverse activities in broader areas beyond the home and workspaces may seem premature given the current state of the XR and metaverse markets, but there are reasons to support early efforts and continued steps to prepare for new network demand brought on by XR and the metaverse. Spatial computing, as pushed by Meta’s upcoming Quest 3 device and Apple’s Vision Pro, for example, creates a bridge between Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to bring the virtual and real worlds together, a critical element for developing the metaverse. While these two devices (Quest 3 and Vision Pro) are not ideal candidates for in-public use, outside of transportation via autonomous vehicles (possibly mass transit) or specific communication and collaboration applications, the attention given to Mixed Reality (MR) (and by relation, spatial computing) could fuel interest and demand for devices like XR viewers.

XR viewers are Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs) that tether to a mobile device, leveraging the latter’s computational resources and connectivity, including 5G connections. Leveraging a mobile device’s 5G connection is an important aspect of the tethered (wired or wireless) arrangement because most XR devices do not include cellular modems. This also solves the hurdle of adding another device (e.g., an AR device with cellular connectivity) to one’s cellular broadband bill. From a metaverse perspective, this creates opportunities for metaverse platforms and services to bring their experiences and content to more places and use cases; for example, brands spending marketing resources to target virtual spaces (e.g., Roblox or The Sandbox) could extend those efforts to physical retail locations as well.

XR and metaverse applications, by nature (e.g., 3D versus Two-Dimensional (2D)), have higher computing demands and would benefit from (if not require) distributing some of the computing needs to cloud and edge resources (hybrid cloud computing), depending on availability and latency requirements. Even as edge computing resources expand, the expectation remains that these types of XR and metaverse use cases will be location dependent and not universally supported through cloud resources; meaning a pure cloud XR device with metaverse experiences is not likely to work for most general use cases, requiring a hybrid cloud environment. This would preclude broader adoption of pure cloud-based smart glasses (significantly lower cost and better form factors), but to support broader usability, on-device computing will remain a key part of the distributed computing environment. In instances when cloud or edge services are available, this could reduce the load on the mobile device and enable better or more immersive experiences.

Opportunities at the edge are not solely the domain of XR, other hybrid computing applications such as on-site collaboration in industrial or Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) applications could similarly benefit from ultra-low latency connections with edge computing (e.g., hybrid compute to process complex 3D models with real-time collaboration). XR viewers, however, represent a potential driver for users to demand advanced features of 5G in the near term and represent a potentially larger opportunity for network operators and suppliers than other use cases.

Evaluate and Prepare for Metaverse and XR Demand


While the XR and metaverse markets have not yet yielded the adoption levels or broader use cases to significantly alter network demand above and beyond organic growth, an inflection point is expected within the next 3 to 5 years (sooner if XR viewers receive more attention). Spatial computing driven by MR, while not receiving as much attention as it deserves, is likely to demonstrate more value to a wider breadth of potential users than more pure virtual experiences or applications—again highlighting the value and importance of merging the real and virtual.

As more users come to value these spatial computing use cases, it will extend to new devices like XR viewers, which will accelerate activity on mobile networks (leveraging a mobile device’s 5G connection). Both leading up to this inflection point and certainly in the early stages, operators should look at evaluating current network performance and planning how to best address the growing needs of these XR/metaverse users. Early on, the data requirements will look close to heavy mobile phone usage, but over time, as the markets for 3D content and services grow, these data demands will grow in kind, presenting new opportunities to monetize this demand through tiered mobile plans and advanced features. This creates opportunities to leverage digital twins to simulate these potential environments to best optimize and plan for requirements before they arise.

China Mobile and companies like ZTE are taking early initiatives here, investing in digital twin networks as part of this process to prepare for the buildup to the metaverse and maturing XR devices. These types of investments are best to help network operators to be prepared and act more nimbly when the demands brought on by XR and the metaverse do start to come to fruition.