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When to launch 5G network slicing

Heavy Reading operator survey signals progress on the commercialization of 5G network slicing.

Gabriel Brown

December 8, 2022

3 Min Read
When to launch 5G network slicing

There are encouraging signs that operators will commercialize network slicing over the next two years, finds the new Heavy Reading 5G Network Slicing Operator Survey. The emphasis initially will be on enterprise services, such as secure, wide-area virtual private networks, but consumer services and fixed wireless access will also be in the mix.

(The survey is intended to help industry participants better understand the status of this technology and provide insight into how operators will use network slicing capabilities to offer commercial services. To read the full survey, click here.)

Determining when to invest in new services and how to judge technology maturity and market demand is notoriously difficult. This is particularly the case for network slicing because it impacts the entire application path, from device to cloud. This requirement for end-to-end performance introduces many organizational and technology dependencies to the commercialization timeline.

The Heavy Reading survey asked operators about their plans for network slicing to help understand how close they are to offering commercial services. The figure below shows that while the majority of respondents say their company is still in the early phases, there is also a lead cohort that is now moving toward commercialization.

Figure 1: n=80 (Source: Heavy Reading) n=80
(Source: Heavy Reading)

The largest group (34%) is still "trying to understand what network slicing means for us" — in other words, tentatively watching to see how the pioneers evolve the technology and how customer demand develops. The next largest group, the 33% "conducting trials and gaining experience," is more committed. These operators are engaged in working out the mechanics of how such a service may work. It is encouraging that a third of the base is active in technology development. However, some caution is warranted because the term "conducting trials" covers a lot of ground, from small-scale lab trials to field trials in live networks.

There is also a cohort that is more advanced. The "defined architecture" (18%), "approved business case" (5%) and "started implementation" (8%) group represents a combined 31% of the respondent base. Even accounting for some over-enthusiasm, these results show positive momentum and indicate that commercial services will follow in due course. They align with the first precommercial services starting to emerge at a handful of operators around the world.

Yes, there remains work to do on technology and operations, creating compelling commercial propositions and communicating the value of network slicing to customers, but tangible progress is being made. With greater deployment of 5G standalone networks over the next year or two, the survey indicates that network slicing will come to market and, in time, become a mainstay service capability for 5G mobile operators.

To download a copy of the full 5G Network Slicing Operator Survey, click here.

This blog is sponsored by Ericsson.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Principal Analyst – Mobile Networks & 5G, Heavy Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gabriel Brown

Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

Gabriel leads mobile network research for Heavy Reading. His coverage includes system architecture, RAN, core, and service-layer platforms. Key research topics include 5G, open RAN, mobile core, and the application of cloud technologies to wireless networking.

Gabriel has more than 20 years’ experience as a mobile network analyst. Prior to joining Heavy Reading, he was chief analyst for Light Reading’s Insider research service; before that, he was editor of IP Wireline and Wireless Week at London's Euromoney Institutional Investor.

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