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What is 5G Network Slicing?

5G Network Slicing seems to be one of the hottest buzzwords around at the moment. If you’re looking for an introduction keep reading or have a look at our new course in this area.

5G as a platform delivers in two major areas. Firstly it brings cost efficiency through access to huge areas of new spectrum and the effective use of advanced antenna techniques. It also delivers significantly improved performance and capabilities centred largely on reduced latency, increased reliability, and lower energy use.

Although requiring significant initial investment, the first area will allow progressive and cost-effective deployment of much needed capacity into the network, complementing the existing 4G services. The second area 5G delivers on – performance and capabilities – will massively expand the range of potential use cases and significantly enhance the communications industry’s ability to support connected innovation and smart systems across a multitude of other industries and business ecosystems worldwide.

With such a diverse mix of capabilities and deployment scenarios, and a practically unlimited range of use cases they can be applied to, 5G is set to bring disruption to established telcos. It will also enable a wide range of new players to find their place in expanded collaborative ecosystems. All of this is complicated by a significant, if slower than expected, shift to virtualisation, cloud techniques and edge computing.

WHERE DOES NETWORK SLICING FIT IN THE MIX?

In order to make sense of the expanded service offerings, and to better manage those services in terms of customer requirements, the concept of Network Slicing has been introduced.

This is where a specific set of capabilities and associated network attributes can be defined and deployed as a separate “virtual” network on common underlying infrastructure. The underlying infrastructure would host a whole range of slices that over time would be able to be deployed and reconfigured in a very flexible way, and if required, established “on-demand”.

Although still in its infancy, the concept has gained a good deal of support in the industry and has been fully adopted as a model within the standardisation process of 5G. Parameters and procedures take account of a device’s slice requirements, and initial slice types have been identified – eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband), mIoT (massive IoT), URLLC (Ultra Reliable, and Low Latency Comms), and V2X (Vehicle to everything). It is expected that this library of types will be expanded and deal with more niche / specific sets of capabilities.

Over time, these initial slice types will be fully specified using slice-templates, which are now available, to fully and specifically define the relevant performance and attributes for that particular slice. It is envisaged that an organisation such as the GSMA (GSM Association) will define “standard” slices for purposes of roaming or consistency, whilst operators themselves would also be able to define and deploy their own slices.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NETWORK SLICING?

The benefits of Network Slicing are wide ranging to both the operator and the customer. Operators will be able to manage, and if necessary, isolate capabilities for purposes of security, SLAs, geography, network loading or maintenance among other considerations. All this can be done while gaining clarity on their customer proposition and agility in their ability to deliver solutions.

5G NETWORK SLICING USE CASES

Naturally there’s a lot of interest in 5G Network Slicing use cases.

A potential use case is that of a Smart City solution. Based on a well-established and tested slice, this could be rolled out to support local governments country-wide with slices being tweaked according to local requirements.

The customer can then see what capabilities and scale of operation they would be paying for and they can be more confident that it will be delivered as promised, and as a project, more likely to be delivered on time.

Slicing also fits perfectly with the ongoing virtualisation initiatives within operator’s networks. As a concept it will be further enhanced once effective Management and Orchestration systems are deployed as part of the virtualisation project, bringing increased levels of flexibility and efficiency to Network Slicing.

SUMMARY

While Network Slicing doesn’t bring any additional capability to the network, it does enable much better management of both the 5G technology and the business aspects of this technology. It also puts both established and new operators in a much better position to take advantage of the greatly increased potential that 5G delivers.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT 5G NETWORK SLICING?

If you’d like to know more you’ll be interested in our new 5G Network Slicing Course. This 1 day course covering network slicing & the topics that impact and drive slice strategy is one of the latest additions to our 5G training curriculum. It’s intended for those involved in the design, deployment and commercialisation of 5G. If you would like to book a place or want further information, please get in touch.

RELATED RESOURCES WE THINK YOU’LL FIND USEFUL

• 5G Service Based Architecture and Core Network course
What is 5G Service Based Architecture? blog post
• Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) Engineering course
• 5G Engineering course

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Wakefield is a very experienced trainer who has been involved full time in training since 1996. He gained a BSc in Electronics and Physics from Loughborough University and spent 8 years as a Royal Navy Helicopter Pilot before returning to Telecoms in a training role with Wray Castle, firstly as a trainer specialising in a wide range of technologies, including cellular and core networks, then as the Course Development Manager.

After an extended period as the founding MD with Informa Telecoms and the Innovation Academies, Tony returned to Wray Castle in 2017 in his current role as a training and competency development specialist. He has worked world-wide with telecoms operators, vendors, regulators and solutions providers, developing curriculum and delivering programmes covering a wide range of audiences from C-Level to Graduates and Technical teams.  You can find out more about Tony and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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