Operator alliance Alaian has brought in Qualcomm to help it throw a lifeline to budding extended reality (XR) start-ups.

Nick Wood

July 10, 2023

4 Min Read
Metaverse VR

Operator alliance Alaian has brought in Qualcomm to help it throw a lifeline to budding extended reality (XR) start-ups.

Alaian made a splash when it launched in April last year but since then has flown under the radar somewhat. Comprised of seven telcos – Bouygues, KPN, MTN, Nos, STC, Telefónica and WindTre – and towerco Cellnex, they promised to share their expertise on new 5G and fibre use cases, and seek out and nurture promising young companies.

Late last week, Alaian turned its attention to XR, partnering with chip maker Qualcomm to issue a global call for innovative start-ups addressing various verticals.

These include metaverse, video games, edutainment, industry and manufacturing, retail, digital social experiences, connectivity, networking, devices, virtual platforms, and other applications or services. Alaian also wants to hear from companies working on connectivity tools and software to enhance the deployment of XR product and service use cases; XR mass entertainment in the home; and XR sustainability tools for large enterprises.

It sounds like Alaian is interested in hearing from anybody, which could be a reflection of how high its public profile currently sits. Or perhaps, given the air of ambivalence towards metaverse in particular at the moment, it needs to cast its net nice and wide to help it actually find some start-ups.

Either way, there is a faint whiff of desperation in the air.

With generative AI hogging the limelight this year, there is the sense that the world has moved on from all the various flavours of mixed reality, especially metaverse, which has even been declared dead by somecommentators.

This poses a bit of a problem for the telecoms industry, which is banking on innovations like mixed reality to help them showcase the potential of their 5G networks to consumers and enterprises alike. A lot of the talk about 6G has also centred on how the technology will further blend the physical and virtual worlds.

That is much harder to do without the ecosystem to actually produce mixed reality hardware and services.

Faint hope arrived in the form of Apple, which in June finally unveiled its Vision Pro. Described as a spatial computing headset, rather than anything offering a variation on reality, it nonetheless reignited interest in XR.

However, with its $3,499 price tag, and with the FT reporting (paywall) last week that Apple has scaled back production forecasts due to Vision Pro’s complex manufacturing process, it is only a faint hope.

And even if Apple single-handedly restarts the XR hype train, it doesn’t do Qualcomm many favours, because Vision Pro uses Apple’s own ARM-based M2 chips.

Perhaps together with Alaian, Qualcomm can find the companies that will finally deliver an XR experience with mass-market appeal.

Start-ups chosen by Alaian and Qualcomm will have access to the telco group’s combined resources, including market knowledge, their network of contacts, connectivity and infrastructure, and even potential capital investment in the form of members’ investment vehicles and/or exposure to their global network of venture capitalists. They could also receive training and access to the telcos’ business development initiatives.

In addition, Qualcomm will offer access to its Snapdragon Spaces XR development platform and development kits, enabling start-ups to create new XR experiences. Qualcomm will also provide engineering support to help companies overcome technical challenges and maximise the potential of their projects. Start-ups will also get priority access to the Snapdragon Spaces Pathfinder programme, its own XR start-up accelerator.

“This joint call offers an exceptional opportunity for start-ups that want to accelerate their growth and benefit from the backing of eight major companies in the telecommunications sector. We are excited to discover new talent and promote the development of disruptive solutions in the field of extended reality,” Daniel Hernández, VP of devices and consumer IoT at Telefónica, in a statement.

“Our main objective is to enable start-ups to succeed by creating immersive applications in a faster, easier, and more profitable way,” added Douglas Vaz Benitez, senior director of business development at Qualcomm Europe. “XR will become a central part of the world we’ll live in in the coming years and Qualcomm’s XR solutions, with special emphasis on Snapdragon Spaces, are available to anyone who wants to be part of this new technology transition. We are very excited for the opportunities we have ahead of us.”

 

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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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