What is network slicing, how does it work and why is 5G so beneficial?

by Paul Cooper |




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From our series of 60-second interviews

Network slicing is the ability to logically partition a network, in that a piece of the network is separated and dedicated to a specific purpose.

A network slice, once configured, is only available to the consuming user or application, however, a slice is not a point-to-point pipe but is a virtual network layer that might include multiple endpoints using multiple technologies over multiple sites.

For example, an application using a 5G endpoint might need to send data to endpoints hosted in Wi-Fi and fixed network domains as well as different sites.

A network slice ensures the integrity, availability and quality of the data connection.

In 4G and many Wi-Fi and IP domains, the data transport mechanism is often shared by many users or applications. Data traffic is aggregated and transported on the shared connection which can result in transport delays when network traffic is high.

One objective of 5G is to support three generic services with heterogeneous requirements these being; enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications, and ultra-reliable low-latency communication. This can be achieved in public 5G networks by network slicing whereby each service is allocated a subset of network resources to provide the required performance guarantees and isolation from the other services.

5G also simplifies the process for enterprises to build their own mobile private networks.

In 5G the new slicing function enables different data connections to be separated and transported independently. Inside these individual connections, enterprise application end-to-end network slices can be configured so each enterprise application can have a dedicated slice within that enterprise mobile private network. These application slices are then aggregated into the enterprise slice managed by the public service provider.

Being able to logically slice the end-to-end network creates new opportunities to use cellular networks to manage industrial processes as the data transport service, quality and availability can be controlled by slicing.

The capability to slice at the application level also opens the way to new application-led on-demand access to end-to-end network slices, in that an application can request the service it needs and no longer relies on network over-provisioning to deliver that service.

Zeetta extends the concept of network slicing in an enterprise as the way to manage networking for multiple distributed applications with disparate connectivity and quality-of-service requirements. These need to be met with an easy-to-use slice orchestration platform.