Mobile communication technology has been driving digitization and is now an essential pillar across industries such as manufacturing, automobile, retail, supply chain, transport, healthcare, and more. Different business verticals have varying needs: one sector could require high-bandwidth communication, another may demand ultra-reliable communication, while a third needs extremely low-latency communication. The ideal 5G network will fulfill these diverse requirements at the same time, and this is possible through network slicing.
What is network slicing?
It is theoretically possible to build multiple dedicated networks where each is customized to support the needs of one type of business customer, but this is economically unviable. The most efficient approach is to segment a single physical network into multiple logical networks, each catering to unique service needs. This technique is called network slicing.
Network segmentation is available to an extent in legacy networks through Access Point Names (APNs) and dedicated core networks. But it is now more seamless and practical to use with advances in virtualization technology that is adopted by 5G. 5G networks, along with network slicing, allow business customers to enjoy connectivity in line with unique business specifications that are negotiated with a mobile operator in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The parameters of customization include data speed, quality of service (QoS), latency, reliability, security, and services.
A network slice is an autonomous end-to-end logical network operating on shared physical infrastructure capable of providing the agreed QoS. The scope of the network slice could cover multiple parts of the network, such as a terminal, core network, access network, and transportation network. One network slice includes dedicated and/or shared resources, which can vary in terms of bandwidth, storage, processing power, and more.
From the end-user perspective, the network slice serves as a normal mobile network. A slice often offers seamless and uninterrupted service when a device roams outside the home network.
Potential vertical applications
Network slices can be used for many use cases in several industries such as:
Consumer: enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) for high bandwidth users.
Automotive: ultra-low latency (1 ms), high-availability, and effective isolation from other services for autonomous vehicles.
Logistics: high availability to track goods.
Healthcare: ultra-low latency and high availability for remote surgeries.
Warehouse: low-latency and high-availability for efficient collaboration between smart robots.
Media (entertainment/AR/VR): high-bandwidth for an immersive and seamless experience.
Smart cities, governments, SOS services: dedicated QoS to ensure connectivity of first responders.
Detailed network slicing use cases
Slices have limitless possibilities for industry, some of which include:
Slice for automobiles
Designed for a modern connected vehicle, it enables a highly versatile network that can deliver ultra-reliable and low-latency communication (URLLC) service for self-driving, car-to-car communication, and emergency services as well as high-throughput for in-car entertainment using high-bandwidth.
Slice for industry automation
A smart factory can use the operator’s URLLC slice for industrial automation, allowing monitoring and control of robotic parts. An edge computing data center (as network resource service) is used to deploy the system.
Slice for massive IoT
An operator can deploy a dedicated slice for IoT users to manage the complex network requirements for a massive IoT device ecosystem. It can have lower latency, and a separate charging and control function to simplify network management and speed-up deployment. This slice can support one million devices per square kilometer.
Slice for live broadcasts in AR/VR
A dedicated high-bandwidth slice can be used by an operator to transmit news and events such as sports and concerts. To manage AR/VR video processing, it can support one-to-many downlink connections with high-density computing. The slice will ensure high-bandwidth and lower-latency QoS.
What capabilities do Alepo’s solutions extend?
Alepo’s 5G Core solution offers converged subscriber data management, policy, charging functions, and 3GPP AAA. It empowers the operator’s network team to create and manage slice profiles, their technical attributes, and associate them with subscriptions or group subscriptions. As a device connects to the network, slice profile details are provisioned towards the network to connect the device to a specific slice based on its service subscription. This empowers operators to create, manage, and charge different slices based on each customer’s business requirements.