Will the Metaverse solve the connectivity labelling conundrum?
Updated: Apr 18, 2022
We’ve learned a lot over the past couple of years. We’ve learned about the R number, we’ve learned new skills in the kitchen, and we’ve learned to adapt to working from home. We have also learned how reliant we are on connectivity to the outside world and the importance of a reliable internet service.
Internet connectivity is vital in ensuring the wellbeing of citizens, businesses, and society as a whole. However, confusing terminology could be hampering progress, reducing connectivity take-up, and impeding both social inclusion and wider economic development.
Both domestic and business consumers are faced with a plethora of terms, including standard, fibre, full-fibre, superfast, ultrafast, ultrafast plus and gigabit-capable. It has been widely recognised that this is causing confusion amongst consumers and there have been calls for clear and informative labelling schemes to help consumers know what they’re purchasing.
Other countries have already taken steps to address this problem. The Italian communications regulatory authority Agcom has introduced traffic light labelling, where green, amber, and red stickers represent connections based on full-fibre, part-fibre, and no fibre respectively. While clear for consumers, the downside to the traffic light approach is that it isn’t particularly informative. Consumers require clear, simple guidance that is related to their needs.
The computer software industry may have solved this problem decades ago when it introduced minimum and recommended system requirements, providing consumers with guidance on what computer hardware was needed for software to be fully usable and enjoyable. For example, see the 2003 minimum requirements for Sim City 4 below.
128 MB RAM
Ironically, it could be the increased popularity of computer games pre, during, and post the Covid-19 pandemic, that results in the creation of a broadband labelling scheme for the UK, and the Metaverse might play a central role.
Persistent, hyper-realistic, immersive, virtual worlds will require high reliability and low latency. From a user-centric perspective, an unreliable connection that continually drops out will be highly objectionable. If latency gets too high, users will start to experience undesirable lag. Unfortunately, reliability and latency are not things that broadband providers advertise. Part of the problem is that broadband providers cannot guarantee a certain performance level because there are too many factors that affect it. However, both reliability and latency can be affected by network performance and the type of broadband connection, whether it is copper, fibre, wireless or satellite.
The argument could therefore be made that reliability, bandwidth and latency information should be available for consumer consideration. And the Metaverse minimum requirements might be the thing that drives consumers to demand it.