5G network slicing: making business sense out of traffic management

18 December 2017

A challenge facing all service providers in the future is how to make 5G pay. The cost of implementing new systems and the cost of licensing will make it financially demanding.

We’ve already seen BT chief executive, Gavin Patterson, claim that making a business case for 5G is difficult, so operators want all the help they can get.

A technique called network slicing offers that possibility.  It’s a technology that allows service providers to segment one big broadband IP network into multiple virtual networks to serve verticals and applications in a more cost efficient manner.

Now, a free white paper from Strategy Analytics has set out the paths that operators need to take to maximise revenue and use resources more efficiently. It will entail using network slicing to deliver a range of new services, but most importantly, target individual companies or vertical sector so that operators can deliver a range of customised service.

Networking slicing offers a whole range of services:

  • the ability to optimise traffic; improve provisioning of wholesale services
  • the ability to set more accurate SLAs and the ability to adjust bandwidth and quality of service that’s being delivered to customers
  • it allows operators to offer different segments of the network to different types of users. For example, a football match could offer instant highlights to fans on the phones, while the same network could serve TV broadcasters and, perhaps even monitoring of the fans’ seating for security purpose.

The technique is already being used by BT in a trial with Huawei, based at BT’s test labs. Because many of 5G’s standards haven’t been defined yet, there are multiple trials under ways to how the technology can be deployed more effectively. For example, BT is also working with Nokia and the University of Bristol to test the viability of network slicing.

One of the challenges in working with IP networks is that it’s harder to set prioritisation: TCP/IP guarantees only ‘Best Efforts’ and has no flow management. One of the reasons for the trials is to find ways for the operators to improve their services.

There’s some way to go still. The Strategy Analytics paper has identified various areas where agreement needs to be reached. These include protocol encapsulation, network topology data models and signalling to connect the different subnet slices. But, as the paper points out, agreement reached in this area will improve revenue possibilities for operators.

Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Director, Strategy Analytics recommends: “We challenge the mobile industry with a ‘Call to Action’ in 2018 to deliver on the promise of network slicing as we move closer to commercial 5G deployments"

Useful reading : What is Network Slicing?

Image credit: Shutterstock

Researcher/ Technical Writer

IT and Mobile Technology writer for a number of publications. I was launch editor for two acclaimed publications: Techworld and Cloud Pro but have also worked on several other publications aimed at IT professionals.

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