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The best thing since bread: Telecommunications in the age of network slicing (Reader Forum)

The use case for telecommunications technology has changed before our eyes. Today, millions of viewers are consuming content via YouTube, video live streaming platform Twitch, or even playing video games, with young gamers (18-25) in the U.S. spending nearly three and a half hours watching others play online video games. In fact, YouTube reported a record-high livestream viewership at 1.1 million simultaneous viewers for the infinitesimally popular online battle-royale game Fortnite. A study conducted by Limelight found that 34% of gamers play more than seven hours each week, with 19.6% playing more than 12 hours a week. Clearly, viewers’ attention has shifted, and as more entertainment is viewed online, the underlying infrastructure and technologies will have to be upgraded to meet the growing demand of consumers. 

Fast connections and low latency are important to gamers and can affect their experience and performance in matches. The same study by Limelight also found that gamers rated fast performance as being the most critical aspect of playing a video game, with 39.4 percent of gamers reporting slow downloads as their top concern, and frustration being the highest in the U.S. Deploying a 5G network is crucial to bolstering connectivity speeds and meeting these concerns, but it’s also imperative that telcos are able to address these demands while being mindful of their resources and capacity.

A changing game calls for flexible infrastructure

One way providers can allocate their resources in an efficient manner while saving energy is to utilize network slicing, a technology that is enabled by 5G networks. Network slicing allows providers to split one physical network into multiple virtual networks and connect an array of different services. This enables providers to determine what characteristics are necessary for a given service, such as connection density and traffic capacity.

Network slicing will give service providers a larger and more centralized role in smart ecosystems and digital marketplaces, which will help grow revenues and profitability. Pairing network slicing with other unconventional business models, such as new SaaS and managed service models, will also reduce costs while sharing risks and rewards. 

5G’s capacity will ensure that carriers provide a better experience for enterprises and consumers alike, tailoring their connectivity services to each device, application and user’s requirements and needs. This means a stronger, faster connection with low latency, so that people can stream more content, use AR/VR capabilities at a sports event, or harness data regarding foot traffic from sensors as a part of a smart city.

Even though we’re still in the preliminary stages of 5G deployment, telcos are in an ideal position to help bring 5G’s full potential to fruition. They will benefit vastly from the freedom to deploy network slices that can be tailored to different organizations and devices, which will create new, exciting opportunities as digital services expand and become more lucrative at a lower operating cost. 

Game on for streaming

Many verticals rely on communications services that help facilitate their operations, as well as interface with customers, teams and even accelerate innovation. One industry that network slicing and 5G connectivity would bolster is the highly competitive live-game streaming world. Twitch has 3.3 million unique broadcasters per month and over 560 billion minutes watched in 2018. This offers a prime opportunity for telcos to adopt specific slices into customer experience (CX) and applications, and eventually could lead them to offer specialized versions of game streaming platforms under their own brands.

For example, a telco could create a portal for users and game providers. The platform could operate from multiple cloud environments, with the mobile network operator enabling access and third parties powering aspects of the streaming experience, back office, CX, slicing and edge. 

Of course, streaming is just one of many areas where network slicing can flourish. Telcos can personalize their network slices to meet the specific requirements of industry-vertical applications in various customer segments. With that, they can provide a substantial foundation for 5G connectivity and low latency for both mobile and enterprise services.

Ultimately, telcos should focus on adding value to core services while maintaining healthy margins and being operationally efficient – something that will come with greater automation in business practices and cloud native technology. As telcos delve into verticals and use cases outside of their comfort zones, they will be able to create outstanding experiences for their customers and raise the bar for telecommunications as a whole. With network slicing, 5G can help bring seamless, agile streaming experiences to fruition.

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