& cplSiteName &

Collaboration Is Critical for 5G Network Slicing

Gabriel Brown
5/4/2017
100%
0%

The 5G vision is to support a wide variety of services, with diverse performance requirements, across many different industries. As we've argued consistently on these pages, the ability to support diverse services on one network platform is a powerful idea, with compelling commercial opportunities. It is also very ambitious.

Network slicing is fundamental to this vision because it enables operators to configure virtual network instances optimized to the customer type or application. If we define a network slice as a processing path containing all the networking functions needed to deliver a service, it quickly becomes clear that slicing extends across network domains, across operators and across industries. To deliver this capability, self-evidently, requires industry collaboration.

In the first instance, collaboration means 3GPP standards and working with other networking organisations on common interfaces. This is fundamental to developing a system that is interoperable between providers, that can be built and operated using multi-vendor technology and that has global reach and economies of scale.

Network slicing also needs industry collaboration outside the standards process. This "off diary" development and interoperability work is critical to ensuring standardised components work together in reality, as well as in theory. One example of this is work between China Mobile (operator), Huawei (vendor), Deutsche Telekom (operator) and Volkswagen (end-user) published in a joint white paper at MWC. In fact, collaboration with prototype technology and test beds can inform the standards development process itself as it uncovers challenges, such as interoperability, and helps create the "semantics" needed to develop commercial network.

There are three key areas where the industry needs to collaborate to make network slicing commercially successful:

  • Common Implementations: It is important that the communications industry offers common implementations of 5G network slicing to end-users. Automotive companies, device-makers, media companies, cloud providers, manufacturers, distributors and industrials all seek to operate nationally, regionally and globally. A common view on 5G slicing should make the decision to use 5G services easier and quicker.

  • Across Network Domains: 5G is associated with the radio access and core network, as defined by 3GPP. In practice, an end-to-end network slice will involve transport, cloud and service platforms and the ability to isolate and assure traffic across these domains while meeting the performance requirements of the slice. Cross-domain collaboration is, therefore, also critical.

  • Inter-Operator Slicing: In the end, it is operators that must create solutions and present them to customers. This is not easy in one operator network, and in practice, to offer customers a compelling service slice, will often require inter-operator agreements. One example of this is DT (Germany) and SKT (Korea), which demonstrated federated network slicing at this year's MWC. (See Eurobites: DT, Ericsson Slice 5G With SK Telecom.)

There is no question that network slicing will be difficult. Operators must think strategically and practically about how to deliver this capability. How granular should network slices be, for example? Should every user, or every company, have its own virtual network "slice"? Or are vertical network slice templates sufficient (an IoT slice, an automotive slice, a healthcare slice, etc.)? And do we really mean one single network implementation should provide every function needed in a slice? Or should we talk about "network platforms," capable of supporting multiple, optimized implementations using common technologies, but made up of diverse software and hardware components?

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Gabriel Brown
100%
0%
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2017 | 9:50:32 AM
Re: Ecclesiastes 1:9
A very fair comment.

Plotting a course between theory and reality will be interesting in 5G again, I'm sure. It feels like the direction of travel is positive. APNs have got easier, DECOR is specified, etc. in 4G. Micro-segemnataion is used on data center networks. In theory, multi-tenant "slicing" is a key part of the 5G system design... 
jonesthefone
50%
50%
jonesthefone,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/8/2017 | 2:43:04 AM
Ecclesiastes 1:9
"There is nothing new under the sun". Who remembers when we launched GPRS? Remember how many APNs were envisaged? One per corporate account... One per service in the walled garden... Quite soon the configuration burden outweighed the value and most of this was collapsed into a "single APN to rule them all". Now an APN doth not make a slice...although some of the attributes were there...overlapping address space, policy-based routing etc. Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-slicing. Far from it. Conceptually, anything which enables multi-tenancy to allow a hosting of verticals deep inside the telco is worthy of exploration. But each slice must earn its corn. And no dicing please!
danielcawrey
0%
100%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/4/2017 | 1:04:43 PM
Slicing and Dicing
I think every user having a slice is too granular right now. Will it happen in the future? Probably. But let's stay basic for the time being, shall we?
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
The Gfast rollout, which has been stalled while network operators conduct trials and chipset vendors develop new Amendment 3 chipsets, is set to start in 2018 with a ramp-up in 2019.
NFV is shifting from a technology focus to operations, as CSPs say too much effort has been spent on VNF onboarding and too little on the reality of operations.
The converged fiber access market is set to grow again, especially as copper lines continue to deteriorate.
The most recent Thought Leadership Council (TLC) survey finds that opportunities abound for 5G vendors as only 15% of TLC service providers have chosen their vendors for the 5G market.
The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to carry out complex analysis on high volumes of data very quickly could help automate many telco security activities. But is it smart to cut humans out of the loop?
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
September 25-27, 2018, Denver, Colorado
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Trump Says Foxconn Will Make iPhones in US
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/15/2018
Net Neutrality Moves Are as Futile as Trump's Comb-Over
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/18/2018
Huawei, ZTE Face US Federal Ban
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/15/2018
Analyst: Verizon's Fixed 5G Is a Loss Leader for Mobile
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/16/2018
Ericsson Lurches to $1.8B Write-Down
Iain Morris, News Editor, 1/16/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed