5G Network Slicing - What, Why and How? - Tech | 5G, SDN/NFV & Edge Compute


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

5G Network Slicing - What, Why and How?

Building a network infrastructure that addresses the needs of a wide variety of 5G use cases and at the same time, meeting the performance expectations is quite challenging. 5G architecture introduces a new concept called “Network Slicing”, to meet the scalability and user experience demands of the wide variety of 5G use cases.

Need for Network Slicing

5G will enable new services and new business models that were not possible using older wireless technologies such as 4G (Read 4G vs. 5G). 5G technology is expected to provide a consistent and highly reliable user experience for a wide variety of use cases. For example, 5G infrastructure has to support a Smart Metering  application, where several thousands of utility meter devices are continuously sending small chunks of information over a long period of time. This use case is not latency sensitive, but expects the network to scale to several thousands of devices. And, at the same time, 5G has to support a fast moving autonomous vehicle, that consumes lots of data and expects sub-millisecond response time. 

The following are some of the requirements for the network slicing implementation in a 5G network:

  • Service provider should be able to configure / manage a network slice dynamically based on the customer needs 
  • Service provider should be able to manage each network slice separately without impacting the performance characteristics of other network slices 
  • Provide security for the services that run on top of a network slice, including protection of the data that gets transferred over the network slice
  • Service providers should be able to expose Application Programmers Interfaces (APIs) for its partners, vendors or customers to create and manage network slices 
  • Support E2E resource management from RAN all the way to the 5G NG Core. 
What is Network Slicing?

Network Slicing allows 5G service providers to divide a single physical network (all the way from the radio to the core network) into multiple virtual networks. Each network slice can have different speed limits, different latencies and different quality of service configuration. The advancements made in Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Cloud has helped in implementing network slicing in 5G networks. 

Benefits of Network Slicing

Network slicing provides a number of benefits to both service providers and customers. 
  • Reduces operational costs in managing / running the wireless networks - as the 5G network slicing exposes APIs for programmatically managing the network infrastructure. 
  • Today, Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) services (letting other wireless service providers share your network infrastructure) require complex manual pre-provisioning of network infrastructure. Network Slicing allows Service Providers to dynamically create, configure and manage MVNO services
  • Allows Service Providers to offer differentiated services to customers using the same network infrastructure, without impacting the performance of the services offered to other customers. For example, support Autonomous Cars and Smart Utility Meters on the same network infrastructure. 
  • Allows service providers to monetise the network infrastructure - not just based on bandwidth consumed, but also based on other parameters such as latency, quality of service, energy consumption and number of connections.
Network Slicing provides a lot of monetization opportunities to service providers, without spending loads of money in upgrading their network infrastructure. (Read: Eight 5G Currencies)

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