Legacy generations of networks have predominately provided services with best-effort delivery. While this has worked for voice, text and best effort broadband services, end users are hampered with buffering, delays, and drops as the demand for feature-rich services continues to grow.
The 5G-era promises new feature-rich services – from ultra-broadband to the mass IoT connectivity required to enable a smarter world, and services such as driver assistance, remote surgery and immersive education. In this era, best-effort delivery is no longer good enough. Each of these services has a unique mix of policy and performance parameters for capacity, latency, packet delay variation, availability, security, and service and network isolation. Delivering on these parameters requires switching from a monolithic network to one logically partitioned by service type to meet these various demands.
However, it’s incredibly difficult and cost-prohibitive to build a network to meet every requirement. The only way a single provider can support these service types is with programmable network slicing. This approach offers the ability to support multiple subnetworks simultaneously on a single infrastructure. This control enables efficient delivery of a broad mix of services with different performance characteristics and associated SLAs.
For this strategy, telco’s need a toolkit of soft and hard slicing technologies. On the soft slicing front, providers are dealing with services that are important – but not detrimental – if packets drop or buffer, such as streaming. Therefore, VPN technology and segment routing can deliver necessary SLAs across the network. With hard slicing, providers are generally dealing with applications which require deterministic performance such as mission-critical applications and services which need guaranteed low latency, high-reliability, service isolation and performance. Customers dealing with life-critical applications might request their own wavelength. Other mission-critical organizations might require OTN or FlexE solutions, which provide the same isolation level as wavelength without the direct connection.
As 5G continues to roll out, soft and hard slicing technology creates a dynamic network that can help providers deliver enhanced customer choice and satisfaction. It also enables providers and mobile network operators to offer revenue-maximizing services for both businesses and consumer segments. With network slicing, telco’s can:
- Offer end-users tiered pricing based on guaranteed service levels.
- Logically partition network infrastructure for better utilization of existing assets.
- Share or lease the transport network with other service providers.
- Move from best-effort services to high-value service offerings such as gaming, AR and VR.
- Deliver improved private networks to mission-critical services, such as utilities, that provide guaranteed performance and high isolation between the IT and OT network – a huge market opportunity to push smart cities across the globe.
- Expand revenue opportunities in new markets, such as cloud gaming. Operators that guarantee low latency connections will find gamers willing to switch to their network and pay premiums for an improved experience.
- Develop a reputation for reliable connections that forces OTT organizations to engage in new partnerships.
- Compete in developing markets, such as eHealth, by providing trusted connections and services with guaranteed performance quality.
Looking toward the future, 5G is far bigger in scope and possibility than any previous generation of network. However, even its predecessor, 4G, delivered use cases beyond the expectations of many industry experts. Therefore, it’s not hard to believe that 5G will introduce new opportunities beyond the ones listed above in the next ten years.
The key to meeting these future opportunities is a 5G native transport solution which enables service providers to react to change, support new business ventures, and adapt to new service models. Network slicing is at the heart of this solution, it delivers the dynamic control of these new deterministic services allowing service providers to profitably deliver services today, tomorrow, and into the future.