Though commonly associated with 5G, network slicing is not a direct component of 5G. Instead, this term describes the ability to create multiple virtual networks from a single network. Each segment can have distinctly different characteristics separate from the ordinary physical infrastructure.
- Characteristics and service guarantees define 5G slices
- Slices are fully isolated and can be self-managed
- 5G ensures higher bandwidth and lower latency
- Businesses gain privacy and security
5G offers more flexibility in optimizing network resources—which is perhaps the reason consumers believe network slicing is a feature of 5G alone.
Communication service providers
Using current networks, communication service providers (CSPs) already offer different types of customers various services—such as higher bandwidth for business customers — but these are hardwired. Network slicing makes it much easier to provide custom services packages to CSPs’ customers, which amplifies the value of a single network infrastructure.
According to Liam Bal, the CEO of Spintel, “CSPs will be able to architect 5G as a private, self-managed network for an enterprise, as a private network service at a customer premise, or as a dedicated slice of the public wide-area network.” SLAs between the CSP and the CSP’s customer guarantees performance levels of the characteristics, making the virtual network much more useful than traditional hard slices.
Dividing a single network into multiple virtual networks means providers can configure each slice to meet the requests of a type of customer based upon common needs such as bandwidth, latency, and availability from their networks. Known as characteristics, the CSP can fulfill the requirements, meter, and charge for these service combinations accordingly.
Network slices provided by the CSP are programmable, yet fully isolated. Their customers can access the capabilities of each slice using APIs to manage features. This facilitates passive monitoring and the ability to add or administer endpoints (without involving the CSP or putting other slices at risk).
Network slices use existing network resources, which means CSPs do not typically need to perform capacity upgrades. Impact on the network’s performance should be minor whether or not the CSP is providing the network or the degree of use for slices.
The Internet of Things
Only one-third (32.8%) of US consumers were found to very clearly or extremely clearly understand how their CSP’s deployment of 5G would benefit them despite the increase of IoT devices in consumers’ homes.
Though 5G will have a significant impact in many areas, it is perhaps most notable in the IoT and technology industries. 5G can support a million IoT devices per square kilometer with speeds as high as 20 Gbps, but it is unknown how quickly CSPs can roll out and make 5G public network connections globally available to enterprises.
In a study published by Gartner, they found investment by CSPs in 5G network infrastructure accounted for 10.4% of total wireless infrastructure revenue in 2019, and the figure would reach 21.3% in 2020. They also predicted the worldwide 5G network infrastructure market revenue will almost double in 2020 to reach $8.1 billion. As competition increases amongst CSPs, the pace of 5G adoption is accelerating for the good of the consumer.
The benefits for SMBs
With CSPs supplying businesses with 5G — and a worldwide distributed workforce now the norm — employees and remote offices are able to collaborate on projects that require ultra-low latency. In the past, this type of collaboration could only occur at a single site due to the stringent requirements.
Untethering contributors from a physical location facilitates robotic control, virtual reality, gaming, autonomous vehicles, and other technology used in a wide range of industry applications. Though some way off, 5G will eventually enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication and aid with accident prevention by offering position data of nearby vehicles.
Members of the same slice can confidently share information with one another because network slicing authenticates endpoints within the federated network resulting in additional security and privacy.
5G network slicing enables the division of a single network into multiple logical networks. It is a way of facilitating CSPs to slice networks into segments for a specific purpose with a combination of performance characteristics that can include security requirements, user volume, service quality, capacity, latency, location, time of the day, or others.
Providers dynamically scale network resources and respond to changes in their customer’s service and performance requirements rather than the current method of managing peak-time traffic.
Until CSPs can make 5G more widely available, network slicing to create virtual networks cannot be widely adopted. The speed at which consumers and businesses will have access to this technology is in the hands of these CSPs and these companies are already expanding their 5G investments.