5G: Slicing the Network

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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

Any slice you like

The power of network slicing is the control that users have over the services they create. All business sectors from healthcare to manufacturing will see the benefits of network slicing. Being able to utilize a NaaS (Network as-a-Service) approach that is familiar to business owners in other parts of their enterprises enables new business opportunities to be realized.

Some sectors – most notably manufacturing as Industry 4.0 takes shape – will be heavy uses of slicing. The communications components of their facilities, which themselves will be revolutionized by IoT will see multiple network slices deployed to meet specific needs.

Infinera’s Jon Baldry described the key challenges to ensure network slicing can deliver its full potential to end users: “Slicing requires innovation in two main areas, the network data plane and overall end-to-end control and management plane. Firstly, the data plane needs to be able to support hard slices – dedicated transport resources, soft slices – shared resources that can be allocated to a slice and hybrid slices that combine both hard and soft resources. Most of these exist today but not all networks have the capability of mixing hard, soft and hybrid slices together in a single dynamic network.”

Baldry went further to explain: “The bigger challenge, however, is the overall end-to-end control and management plane. As these networks are typically a multi-vendor environment, this requires a multi-vendor, multi-layer SDN-based network orchestrator with tools to manage end-to-end slices and intermediate resources such as multi-access edge compute (MEC) locations that could be ‘mid-slice’.  Network orchestrators are now coming to market enabling early adopter network operators to start selecting the tools that will enable them to roll out network slicing capabilities.” 

Ultimately, businesses will have control of the networks they lack at the moment. The one size for all approach is antiquated. Indeed, research from BT and Ericsson suggests businesses using network slicing could see their revenues jump by 35% when using slicing to expand their use of IoT for instance, which would also deliver a 40% reduction in OPEX. 5G slicing offers a flexible, agile and secure approach to service design that all businesses have been waiting for.

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