Article Media

Infrastructure for supporting the metaverse

How much internet speed do you need to use the metaverse?

In the most general sense, the metaverse represents all of the shared virtual environments that people access via the internet. Metaverse platforms combine technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and social media to create immersive digital worlds where users can interact with their environment, and each other, in new ways.

While “the metaverse” is often used as a singular term, there are many different platforms that allow you to access entirely different virtual environments. Many major companies, including Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Nike, have invested in the development of their own metaverse platforms.

These investments reflect the increased interest in the metaverse.  Indeed, the market for metaverse technology is growing and is projected to grow exponentially over the next decade. But the metaverse is much more complex than the internet we’re used to, and significant improvements to technology and infrastructure will need to occur to make it available for everyone.

What do you need to access the metaverse?

Due to the size and complexity of most metaverse platforms, accessing their full functionality typically requires specialized equipment, high levels of processing power, and a large amount of bandwidth. The exact types of hardware and software you’ll need can vary depending on the platform you’re using. Still, there are several important pieces of equipment that you should familiarize yourself with before you start exploring the metaverse:  

  • Mobile phone for AR experiences:  The most available way to enjoy the metaverse right now might just be with a mobile phone. Mobile apps like Pokemon Go, Snap Chat, and Google Sky all use augmented reality to alter the way we see reality. Even though you might not see it in real life, a mobile device running Pokemon Go will allow you to catch your favorite pocket monsters wherever you are, alongside other users.
  • VR headset: Unlike AR glasses, which blend digital elements with real life, virtual reality (VR) headsets allow you to enter and explore completely simulated environments. Because of this full immersion, VR headsets allow you to enjoy a wider range of metaverse functionalities than AR glasses. 

However, they can also be unsafe to wear in certain settings or for extended periods, as they completely block out all your real-world surroundings and can cause side effects like motion sickness. 

Some VR headsets require pairing with a smartphone, computer or gaming console, while others can be used as standalone devices. It’s critical to ensure that the headset you choose is compatible with your smartphone or computer, as not all headsets can be paired with all devices. 

  • VR controllers: When used in conjunction with a VR headset, VR controllers can enhance your metaverse experience by allowing you to experience real-time tactile feedback with your hands as you interact with the virtual environment. These devices use built-in actuators and motors to replicate the resistance you feel when gripping and moving objects.
  • Tablet for immersive 2D and 3D experiences: While some might defend Second Life (2003) or even Habbo Hotel (2000) as the first forms of the metaverse, others still will point to the 2D immersive experience and MMORPG, Habitat, developed by LucasArts. Nowadays, Roblox and Minecraft serve as platforms on the metaverse and can be accessed via mobile devices like tablets.

Currently, using specialized devices like these is the best way to enjoy a fully immersive experience in the metaverse. In some cases, you can access the metaverse using only a computer or smartphone. However, this will significantly compromise the performance and functionality of most platforms.

Challenges of powering the metaverse

Several notable challenges are standing in the way of easy, widespread metaverse access:

Processing power  

Metaverse environments are massive and full of animated 3D elements that are constantly being rendered in real-time based on sensor data and user actions. They are far more complex to operate and maintain than any traditional internet platforms, especially as they accumulate more users.  

Because of this, computing industry leaders like Intel believe that supporting full metaverse functionality on a large scale requires a higher level of processing power than most peoples’ smartphones and computers can deliver. 

Internet speed and bandwidth   

To enable real-time interactions and synchrony between many users, metaverse platforms need to process and transmit massive amounts of data constantly. As a result, enjoying the full functionality of most metaverse environments requires a mobile network with a high level of bandwidth. 

Unfortunately, the current internet was not built with the metaverse in mind, and most existing mobile networks don’t provide the necessary bandwidth to support full metaverse access for all mobile device users. As metaverse platforms continue to grow, they will likely increase collective bandwidth consumption at a very high rate, placing tremendous strain on data centers and internet infrastructure.

Making the metaverse available to everyone

While large-scale metaverse use can seem like a prospect for the distant future, it may be more feasible than many people think. To truly make the metaverse easily available and fully functional for everyone, several upgrades must be made to cellular networks and the computing devices people use.

Internet infrastructure  

To allow for widespread metaverse access without compromising performance, significant infrastructure advancements must be made to improve network speed, latency and symmetrical bandwidth.

One major advancement that is already underway is the expansion of 5G networks, which can reduce latency and increase bandwidth for many people. Additionally, tech giants like Meta and Google have begun investing in the creation of more subsea fiber optic cable networks, which are intended to help provide more people with faster internet speeds. 

Computer systems  

Because most smartphones and personal computers aren’t capable of supporting full metaverse platforms by themselves, manufacturers must significantly improve the processing power of these devices to make the metaverse available for everyone.  

Higher capacity memory cards and graphics processors are already being developed for smartphones and computers, and would likely help to optimize the performance of metaverse platforms on these devices. However, more powerful hardware like this must become the new standard for phones and computers before large-scale metaverse use can become feasible.

Edge computing 

Virtual worlds require a lot of computational power to render and maintain the assets and rules that comprise them. This means the potential for latency among users is high and that quality of service (QoS) will be affected. 

Fortunately, edge computing, or the use of cloud-based computing services closer to the user (rather than processing data on servers that are farther away from the user), is making a quality metaverse more available to everyone. So if you raise your hand in Montana, but you’re connected to a data center in Oregon, edge computing strategies will help keep you in sync with the rest of the metaverse and be able to experience a low-latency and highly responsive virtual reality.

Supporting the metaverse in your home

If you’d like to enjoy an immersive metaverse experience in your home, it’s important to make sure you have the necessary internet access and computing power. To achieve optimal metaverse performance, you will likely need a connection with a minimum speed of 100Mb/s (megabits per second) for basic VR functionality. 225Mb/s allows HD VR streaming with no lag or latency.

If your current connection doesn’t adequately support the metaverse platform you’re using, you’ll likely experience limited functionality and unacceptably high lag. If it’s available in your area, switching to 5G Home Internet or Verizon Fios can provide a high-speed internet connection for your home.

Additionally, it’s critical to make sure the computing device you’re using has enough memory and processing power to support the metaverse. If it doesn’t, you may need to upgrade to a new computer or incorporate specialized equipment like a VR headset.