Airtel and Vodafone Idea join the metaverse bandwagon

airtel and vodafone idea metaverse
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India’s older telcos Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have started evaluating opportunities for the metaverse to better engage with customers and to increase stickiness on their networks and services.

Bharti Airtel became the first operator in India to foray into the metaverse through its Xstream multiplex. It launched India’s first multiplex on the Partynite Metaverse platform. The Xstream multiplex is an extension of Airtel’s Xstream Premium offering, which recently achieved a 2-million subscriber milestone within 100 days of its launch.

Vodafone Idea, India’s third largest telco by subscribers, is also evaluating metaverse opportunities to enhance customer experience.

“Vodafone Idea is keenly following this emerging technology to see how it evolves. We believe it has the potential to deeply engage with consumers and enhance their digital experience,” Avneesh Khosla, chief marketing officer, Vodafone Idea was quoted as saying by the Economic Times. “Metaverse will enable deep engagement in genres such as gaming, entertainment, retail, education, e-commerce, and social networking.”

Earlier this year, Vodafone Idea joined hands with UK-based technology company Mobile Streams to launch gaming, eSports, and metaverse services in the first quarter of 2022. However, there hasn’t been any update since the announcement.

Vodafone Idea’s Khosla said that the device ecosystem needs to achieve economies of scale to reach critical mass for the metaverse to become popular.

Airtel and Vodafone Idea plan to develop metaverse offerings for both their business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) segments.

Analysts told the publication that metaverse adoption will be faster in the B2C domain for Indian telcos following the launch of their 5G services, which is expected to be later this year. However, B2B use cases is expected to be the main metaverse revenue driver for telcos. Indian telcos are expected to enter partnerships to develop use cases for the metaverse.

“Right now, no one is asking for 5G. But once you offer experiences enhanced by faster speeds, low latency and more bandwidth, the consumer will start using it. That’s what we saw happen with 4G as well,” Prashant Singhal, global TMT emerging markets leader at EY informed the publication.

Of course, it will not be that easy. Apart from the fact that the “metaverse” is a vaguely defined concept that essentially means AR and VR, operators have to plan their metaverse strategy carefully.

EY said in a separate report said that in order to take advantage of the gradual evolution of ther metaverse, “operators should be prepared to invest in emerging metaverse platforms. This will help them build a deeper understanding of the demand scenarios and technical competencies shaping the long-term opportunity.”

EY said that the development of the metaverse will also be fueled by fiber connectivity. Going forward, the off-loading of wireless traffic through Wi-Fi 6 will help address network capacity- and efficiency-related challenges.

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