Network slicing and 5G
Network slicing has received significant attention among telecom operators, especially with the commercialization of 5G networks on the horizon. Based upon the principles of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), network slicing is expected to play a major role in 5G architectures. But what exactly is end-to-end network slicing, and how can it help move 5G networks forward?
What is network slicing?
Network slicing enables operators to partition a single, physical network in various virtual networks, where each slice represents an independent virtualized end-to-end network. It enables operators to meet diverse service requirements for different customers. Telecom operators have become attracted to the technology as a way to provide networks on an as-service basis, allowing them to increase operational efficiency while reducing time-to-market for new services.
To crystallize the concept, consider a city transportation system, which typically involves multiple modes of transportation. Rather than provide a single form of transportation, the city allocates infrastructure resources to support railroads, subways and roads. Similarly, network slicing supports different virtual services by allocating resources from a physical network.
The role in 5G networks
5G systems are expected to be made for logical network slicing. These networks will combine various services with different performance requirements, from high reliability to low latency, into a physical network infrastructure. Each slice within a 5G network serves as a kind of logically isolated set of resources, which are tailored to meet the needs of different services. For example, a massive industrial IoT slice may demand a light 5G core with several connections, while a mobile broadband slice may require a high-capacity core and low latency.
An end-to-end network slicing framework for 5G wireless, which includes slicing 5G radio access network (RAN) and the 5G core network, is needed to deliver a range of service requirements. 5G RAN slicing can be accomplished by logically abstracting physical radio resources, including physical hardware and spectrum. Core network slices can also be built leveraging NFV and SDN. Both types of slices kind be devoted to a particular class of service users or shared among different classes of service users.
Benefits of an end-to-end approach
An end-to-end approach to network slicing for 5G networks offers various benefits compared to conventional networks. 5G networks can quickly address service requirements with the technology by scaling each slice up or down. The common pool of end-to-end resources shared among network slices enables them to be more manageable. Carriers can also prepare for 5G by using network slice management solutions. Additionally, the logical isolation of networks slices provides greater security.