5G network slicing and its key role in future networks
Virtual networks optimized by use case is goal of 5G network slicing
The mobile industry consensus is there will be a new “5G” radio access standard by 2020. However, 5G networks will be much more than just radio access as these future networks are expected to be an integration of cross-domain networks.
Systems are expected to be built in a way to enable logical 5G network slices, which is designed to enable operators to provide networks on an as-a-service basis and meet the wide range of use cases the 2020 timeframe will demand. With 5G network slicing, a single physical network can be partitioned into multiple virtual networks to offer optimal support for different types of services and for different types of customer segments. This technology is expected to enhance operational efficiency while reducing time-to-market for new services.
According to a white paper published by Ericsson, some of the use cases requiring network slicing are set to be mobile broadband supporting more video, higher speeds and wide-scale availability; massive machine-type communication with transportation monitoring and control; mass market personalized TV with big data analytics; and critical machine type communication with remote operation.
Each of these use cases is set to require a different configuration of requirements and parameters, which is why each use case will require its own network slice. The move to 5G networks are expected to provide a flexible structure so that speed, capacity and coverage can be allocated in logical slices taking into account the specific demands of each use case.
According to Ericsson, the way to implement 5G network slicing is using software-defined networking, network functions virtualization and network orchestration.
“Ericsson has delivered commercial solutions using an SDN controller to configure network service chains (header enrichment, [deep packet inspection], video optimization, parental control) per user, service or other parameter,” the vendor explained. “The SDN service chaining solution builds a network slice for each user or service. The flexibility inherent in NFV enables operators to set up services quickly, and move them around as virtual machines in response to network demands,”
It should also be possible via the operating support and business support systems for third parties to configure, deploy and manage their own network slice without intervention from the operator. All of these functions are expected to scale and translate directly into the future cross-domain, integrated 5G network.
Network operators are set to incorporate some already developed new technologies like SDN and NFV into the future development of 5G networks. These new technologies are key to enable the many network slices necessary to meet the requirements of myriad 5G use cases.
Many vendors and mobile operators are already cooperating in the development of 5G network slicing. Ericsson is working with Korean operator SK Telecom in this field. In July 2015, the two firms said they will work to develop and deploy network slicing technology optimized for 5G services, build a joint 5G test bed and provide the world’s first 5G pilot services. In October 2015, Ericsson and SK Telecom demonstrated 5G network slicing technology at SK Telecom’s corporate research and development center in Bundang, South Korea. The demonstration featured the creation of virtual network slices optimized for services including super multiview and augmented reality/virtual reality, massive “Internet of Things” offerings and enterprise solutions.
Huawei and Deutsche Telekom showed the results of a 5G end-to-end network slicing demo during this year’s Mobile World Congress. The joint demo was conducted in DT’s 5G lab based in Bonn, Germany.