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Commercializing 5G Network Slicing

5G network slicing enables businesses to enhance their network security, reliability, and flexibility needs by creating independent logical network slices on the same physical cellular wireless network infrastructure. The Network Slicing framework is one of the major additions to the 5G Standalone standards. While it is still in its infancy, it is also one of the essential pillars for enabling operators to create and deliver new services. Network slicing is a complex technical capability as it touches nodes in all the wireless network domains – device, core, transport, and radio.

“Commercializing 5G Network Slicing” explores how end to end network slicing can enable communication service providers to meet all the needs from their enterprise and business customers. It provides a deep dive into the main technical concept of Network Slicing and explains the technical concepts and standards that support them. It covers network slicing-based services with future improvements and insights into architecture models while providing clarity into the complexity of initial commercialization possibilities.

Topics explored in this white paper include:

  • Introduction to Network Slicing Concepts
  • Standards and Industry Forum Framework for Network Slicing
  • Network Slicing Use Cases and Ecosystem Status
  • Slice Orchestration and Automation
  • Network Function Virtualization (NFV) in Network Slicing
  • Evolution of Network Slicing Technology: Standards development, Vertical Slicing, Horizontal Slicing, Shared Networks and Multi-Tenancy

The white paper also does more than just clarifying the engineering concepts and use cases. It takes a detailed look into the central compromises of business and technology as network slicing commercial products and services are considered across different varieties of slicing, including localized, area-wide, nationwide, temporary, and long-term or permanent use cases. Additional opportunities for upsell or premium services are also discussed, including subscription-based, policy-based, and application-based slicing scenarios.

As 5G Standalone networks proliferate globally, it is possible that slicing will become a fundamental building block for the mobile communications ecosystem.

Helen Zeng, Staff Consulting Solutions Architect, VMware

Executive Summary

One of the major features of 5G networks is the capability to deliver connectivity across the vastly different quality of service (QoS) requirements required by modern applications. As opposed to the “one size fits all” network paradigm employed by previous generations of mobile networks, 5G networks can address sophisticated and varied challenges from applications like machine-type communication (MMTC), ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC), and enhanced mobile broadband (EMBB) delivery.

This strength of 5G networks is managed via a concept called “Network Slicing,” which is the main topic of this paper.

The Network Slicing framework is one of the major additions in the 5G Standalone standards. While it is still in its infancy, it is also one of the critical pillars for enabling operators to create and deliver new services. Network slicing is by no means a simple feature, as it touches nodes in all the wireless network domains – device, core, and radio – and one could possibly compare its complexity with the introduction of IP Multimedia System (IMS) and voice in packet switched networks more than a decade ago.

In a technical sense, network slicing creates independent logical mobile networks – network slices – on the same physical mobile network infrastructure. Each network slice is an isolated end-to-end network tailored to fulfil diverse requirements required by specific applications or customers. Traditional mobile networks offer one ‘data pipe’ for everything and everyone, with very few mechanisms that allow them to treat specific type of traffic different than regular data. Network slicing addresses the need to use the same spectrum and hardware but accommodate different combinations of network attributes for specific scenarios and use-cases.

While a lot of documentation and literature has already been produced aimed at educating engineers and customers about what network slicing is for, how it works, and what it can potentially deliver, this whitepaper tackles a more complex domain. We delve more deeply into the central compromises of business and technology with the goal of launching a first commercial product based on network slicing.

Chapter 1 starts with an introduction of the basics of network slicing to establish – without claiming to be exhaustive – a basic understanding of some of the fundamental concepts needed as well as with an overview of the main standard bodies that support them. Chapter 2 then builds a structure of the main concepts and building blocks for some of the most discussed network slicing-based services, with the goal of enabling a decision-making process that considers as many factors as possible. These include technical capabilities, existing business impact and ecosystem availability, and ultimately add some clarity into the complexity of initial commercialization possibilities. Finally, Chapter 3 highlights some of the future improvements for architectures and platforms with good prospects of adding to and strengthening the network slicing domain.

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