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
Silicon spoke with Yogen Patel, Head of Product and Solutions Marketing, Amdocs and began by asking:
Is network slicing a fundamental component of 5G that users of the network will find most useful?
Network slicing changes the paradigm of telco services from being focused on mobile connectivity, to support a range of new applications across business and consumer markets. It enables mobile operators to offer services to address the specific needs of different verticals and customers.
By provisioning dedicated customized network slices, operators can improve service performance, customer experience and, therefore, customer satisfaction. Furthermore, network slicing will make smaller, niche service opportunities economically viable, allowing more specialized services to be offered to customers willing to pay premium rates.
What are the key challenges when deploying network slicing?
As network slices will be using network functions and resources across the different network segments. From access to core, in many cases, some functions may also be deployed on a public cloud. Managing the end-to-end life cycle of network slices poses a major operational challenge to the mobile operator.
An end-to-end perspective is crucial for meeting the needs of diverse services, use cases, and business models. Mobile operators will use multi-domain and multi-vendor service orchestration platforms for managing both the 5G network functions as well as the network and telco cloud infrastructure layer which hosts the physical and virtual resources needed to create end-to-end network slices.
Which industries will network slicing has the most impact upon?
Mobile operators will be able to create dedicated network slices for answering specific customer needs. It will allow them to provide optimized services for a wide range of industry verticals such as utilities, transportation, manufacturing, entertainment, health and smart cities.
Network slicing will also open new business opportunities for mobile operators. For example, they will be able to allocate dedicated slices for their media and content partners, which will provide new sources of revenue. Mobile operators also plan to use network slicing to support live sports and E-sports. They are optimistic about the impact of 5G on sports-related business lines and believe they could increase their ARPU by offering service plans which guarantee premium user experience.
What are the pitfalls to watch out for when using network slicing?
In many cases, multiple network slices share the same physical network infrastructure, and control and support systems, but are distinct and isolated from one another. This isolation is essential not only for providing guaranteed resources for a particular network slice, but also to protect from data leakage from one network slice to another. Mobile operators will need to ensure that network slices will be properly isolated to answer the security needs of their customers.
How does network slicing deliver a flexible and customizable network to end users?
The network evolution from EPC to 5GC (5G Core) and virtualized RAN plays a vital role in creating a powerful programmable network platform for mobile operators to extract value from their networks.
Network slicing will enable network elements and functions across the RAN, edge and core to be virtualized as one integrated end-to-end service. Mobile operators will be able to create virtual networks for answering the needs of specific services, enterprise, customer or industry.
To achieve this, 5G network slicing will need to be based on SDN and NFV technologies and principles, which will enable dynamic programmability and control. Mobile operators will automate the network slices operation, from creating and designing service models and policies, to monitoring the network performance. In addition, analytics and machine learning will be used for optimizing the performance and consumption of network and cloud infrastructure resources.
5G poses an unprecedented opportunity for service providers to transform their network and service operations. In the 5G era, operators will be able to support automated smart operations, streamline innovation through open, standards-based capabilities, and accelerate revenue growth by capturing this new monetization opportunity.
There is little doubt that network slicing is a significant innovation for all business sectors. Understanding customer needs and then developing a network slice to meet those requirements will need close cooperation between service providers and their customers.