5G: Slicing the Network

5G slicing the network

One of the fundamental components of 5G is the ability of networks to create bespoke tailored services for their customers. Silicon investigates whether network slicing is how businesses will be able to make a quantum leap with their networks and communications

As the 5G network will decouple its hardware and software to create virtual network services, understanding how slicing can be used to deliver real-world tangible improvements to current services is high on the agendas of all business owners. Being able to take more control and create the precise network components needed to evolve their enterprises is a crucial aspect of 5G.

The one size for all network infrastructure that exists today isn’t flexible enough to deliver the advanced services businesses, and consumers now demand. What is needed is the ability to tailor the network components and deliverable services for each user, that is still based on the same underlying network hardware.

5G uses the combined aspects of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to, in effect, offer a recipe book of functionality that a service provider can offer to their clients. Virtualization separates the hardware from the software component to use the common hardware infrastructure of 5G.

To ensure that network slicing delivers the expected gains, the network infrastructure must be available, as Nokia points out: “5G network slicing can be used to ensure that end-to-end performance meets customer expectations, as well as service and application requirements. To leverage network slicing properly, the individual segments (radio access network (RAN), transport, metro, core, edge cloud, central cloud), which were formerly treated separately, must be examined as a whole. Also, performance optimization must be adapted and coordinated across the entire network.”

According to ABI Research network slicing stands to create approximately US$66 billion in value coming from the ever-increasing digital requirements of industry verticals. “Telcos (aka Mobile Service Providers or MSPs) are increasingly seeking to create services that are more differentiated and tap into the growth engine of the future, intrinsically linked to a superior experience for end consumers, and operational simplicity for enterprises and end verticals,” commented Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research.

Alusha concluded: “Network slicing revenues will eventually be on an upward trajectory, driven by digital, cloud, and security requirements of multiple industry verticals, particularly for the trio of manufacturing, logistics, and automotive. Realizing the full revenue potential is dependent on essential slicing infrastructure from vendors, and pertinent applications delivered by MSPs.”

In addition, Jon Baldry, Director of Metro business at Infinera, explained:

“One of the major changes that 5G brings is the divergence of services from simply the high-speed data/internet we saw in 4G, to a range of services with differing requirements within the underlying transport network. Slicing is a key tool in enabling the transport network to support these differing service types concurrently. That said, many operators will use the fact that they are introducing network slicing as an indicator of industry leadership in their messaging around 5G, so some end users may ultimately be aware that they are utilizing services on a sliced network.”

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