Metaverse is just VR, admits Meta, as it lobbies against 'arbitrary' network fee

Meta, the self-styled "metaverse company" formerly known as Facebook, has taken on a novel role de-hyping the virtual world technology its founder bet the farm on just a few short years ago.

No, it hasn't announced another pivot -- rather it's been forced to dial down the multicolored metaverse hype as it lobbies against a proposal pushed by European mobile network operators who want regional lawmakers to force major content providers (i.e. tech giants like Meta) to pay them a fee for carrying their data -- a double-dip scenario they've suggested is required to fund network infrastructure upgrades they claim are needed to make the metaverse happen...

The telcos' complaints about their (relative) poverty (vs tech giants) is obviously controversial but does appear to have bent ears in Brussels: In February, EU lawmakers announced an exploratory consultation on the future of network funding. And, shortly after that, the bloc's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, took a turn on stage at an annual telco industry bash -- sounding pretty sympathetic to their cause. (Although in remarks to press straight after this he maintained that nothing has been decided yet.)

In a blog post dubbing the telcos' framing a "false premise", Meta's Kevin Salvadori, VP of network and Bruno Cendon Martin, director & head of wireless technologies, don't mince their words -- calling the telcos' argument "nonsense" and the proposed network fee "arbitrary".

Telcos lobbying for the proposal have suggested five or six of the biggest content providers should pay -- putting Meta in the frame, along with other Internet giants like Netflix and Alphabet.

"We know that some European telecom operators have justified network fee proposals by speculating about capacity constraints caused by metaverse adoption -- but this is nonsense," Salvadori and Martin write. "The development of the metaverse will not require telecom operators to grow capital expenditures for greater network investment."

They go on to explain this is because "metaverse adoption for the foreseeable future will continue to be driven predominantly through Virtual Reality (VR)" -- and that "almost all VR content is currently consumed over fixed networks through Wi-Fi" -- an infrastructure they argue is already well established across most of Europe.

"Looking ahead, Europe’s fixed network capacity, with easily upgradeable FTTH/B [fiber-to-the-home/building] deployments, is more than enough to supply demand for the metaverse and other internet services for decades to come," they add, suggesting there won't be a significant difference in product experience between being tethered to a headset in VR (something that's been around for ooooh donkeys years) and being 'in the metaverse' for, er, many more donkeys' years. Oh.

What about AR (augmented reality)? The blog post attempts a bit of a 'reverse ferret' on this, to reclaim a sprinkling of metaverse hype, with the Metamates writing: "The immersive worlds we can discover in VR are just one possible way to experience the metaverse. Augmented Reality (AR) devices, which overlay digital content onto the real world in a small form factor, will be another important part of the metaverse in the future."

However they just as quickly pour more cold water on the notion of there being any meaningful mobile (AR) metaverse action on the horizon. So -- tl;dr -- you can shelve the idea of free-floating in any (queasily colored) Meta mobile metaverse/s that blend immersive virtual worlds with the physicality of being out and about for real. (Although, to be fair, that sounds like it would be an unpleasant and confusing nightmare -- and moreover, notably, the blog post goes on to suggest even the AR metaverse is going to be fairly static, likely tethered to home/other wi-fi most of the time too. But, well, we're sure the porn industry will invent some novel use-cases for that for the true 'blended reality' believers.)

"As we set out in December, our vision for the creation of true AR glasses will require years of progress to make our devices slimmer, lighter, faster, and more powerful, all while consuming less battery power and generating less heat. Devices will need to understand both the world and user expressions to effectively overlay pixels on top of reality to offer a truly transformative experience," they warn.

"Our engineers are some of the best in the world, and they continue to be at the vanguard of bringing our AR vision to life. It is one of the most ambitious R&D efforts in the world today, focused on building a truly revolutionary new kind of computing platform. However, to overcome the challenges set out above, it will take years before AR devices become ubiquitous."

That's "years", twice -- straight from the Metamates' mouth.

So metaverse lovers, better not wait around for this one. Get yourself over to Horizon Worlds right now -- for a true taste of those metaverse decades to come.