Mobile

Meta's Plea At MWC 2022: Come Build Metaverse-Ready Networks With Us

Mark Zuckerberg knows his company can't build the metaverse alone.

Mark Zuckerberg and Meta's metaverse.
James Martin/CNET

On the eve of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Facebook parent company Meta issued a bid for partners to work with the company on bringing its vision for the metaverse to life.

When Facebook announced it would change its name to Meta in October, it was staking its reputation on the idea that the metaverse -- a next-gen virtual world where people work, play, learn and connect with their friends and family -- would be the future of the entire internet. Now, it just needs to build it, and also ensure the underlying networks that we all rely on every day are strong and efficient enough to support it. Meta is well aware this isn't a challenge it can take on alone.

"Today, we're at the start of the next transition as we build for the metaverse," Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement on Monday. "But creating a true sense of presence in virtual worlds delivered to smart glasses and VR headsets will require massive advances in connectivity. Bigger than any of the step changes we've seen before."

There's an enormous number of technological advances that will be required to support Meta's hopes and dreams for the metaverse, which is a highly immersive world that many people in different places can interact with in real time. These advances ultimately boil down to being able to process masses of newly complex, demanding data faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Zuckerberg added that creating the metaverse would mean creating connectivity infrastructure that can evolve as fast as technology does, and that it would require working with partners to make this happen. Meta is available and willing to support those making breakthroughs in metaverse ecosystems to ensure as many people can participate in these new technologies, he said.

In a blog post, Meta's VP of Connectivity Dan Rabinovitsj expanded on Zuckerberg's statement, saying that the metaverse must be built on a foundation of "openness and interoperability" to ensure people far and wide are able to take advantage of the new technology. With last year's ITU report recording that only 63% of the world's population have access to the internet, Meta and others building this next generation of technology will need to work hard to ensure digitally excluded people around the world aren't left even further behind.

Meta might seem like something of a lone wolf tech giant, but the company does have form when it comes to working with others on connectivity projects. Since at least 2013, Meta has been collaborating with tech partners to bring internet access to remote and tricky-to-connect regions of the world. These projects range from satellite internet efforts to laying subsea cables. 

Last September, the company unveiled plans for a consortium it was a member of to lay the longest subsea cable that would connect 3 billion people to the internet when it went live in 2023. Additionally, a report published Monday by Meta said that the subsea cable investments the company has made over the past few years are expected to contribute over half a trillion dollars to the European and Asia-Pacific economies by 2025.

Meta has come to MWC this year hoping to take advantage of similar partnerships when it comes to building metaverse-ready networks. It's the right place and the right time -- this is already set to be one of the biggest conversation points of the show this year. Meta announced on Monday that it's already set to work with Spanish network Telefonica to build an Innovation Hub in Madrid. Now, it's asking: who will be next?