5G is expected to realize an important digital transformation. This will be made possible through innovative radio access technologies but also by integrating cross-domain networks. 5G must support a wide variety of use cases and their performance requirements, and a key to realize that seems to be “Network Slicing”.

Network slicing is conceived to be an end-to-end feature. Network Elements (NEs) and functions are designed to be easily configured and reused across slices, so that 5G Networks can be sliced logically into multiple virtual networks.

The cross-domain integration together with network slicing will enable new technologies to flourish into new businesses and verticals, including IoT and wearables for specific high value applications such as e-Health. Another technology that is expected to flourish is virtual and augmented reality that will create various new business models and verticals.

Network Slicing according to 5G Americas

5G Americas, the industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas, announced the publication of a technical whitepaper titled “Network Slicing for 5G Networks and Services” (available here). The whitepaper details network slicing implementation relative to 5G technologies.

Network slicing, in its simplest description, is the ability to tailor a set of functions to optimize use of the network for each mobile device; it is considered to be key for meeting 5G’s diverse use cases and requirements, including future-proof scalability and flexibility.

“As we progress towards developing 5G technology, cellular systems are expected to enable a transformation that will touch business, governments and people to enable them with new and diverse capabilities,” stated Chris Pearson, President of 5G Americas.

5G networks will be much more than just radio access. The 5G network of the future will be an integration of cross-domain networks. 5G systems will be built to enable logical network slices, which will allow operators to provide networks on an as-a-service basis and meet the wide range of use cases that next generation networks in the 2020 timeframe will demand.

Why is Network Slicing important?

One of the many reasons that network slices are so important is that the use cases for future 5G networks are so diverse. Each use case will require a different configuration of requirements and parameters in the network; each use case could require its own network slice.

Networks will be built in a flexible way so that speed, capacity and coverage can be allocated in logical slices to meet the specific demands of each use case.

“Network slicing makes possible the creation of virtual networks using one common network infrastructure,” explained Rao Yallapragada, Director, Intel and co-leader of the white paper. “The implementation of network slicing will provide an end-to-end solution for flexible infrastructure optimized to address future use cases with diverse requirements such as speed, connection, battery life, latency and cost.  Including both the core and radio access networks, each slice can be configured with its own network architecture, engineering mechanism and network provisioning.”

Network Slicing and SDN/NFV

Network operators will incorporate some already developed new technologies like Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) into the future 5G network. They are needed to enable the many network slices necessary to meet the requirements of the many 5G use cases.

Chris Pearson remarked, “It is not expected that 5G will arrive as a single ‘Big Bang’. Significant progress is already being made on networking technology through the standards bodies and network slicing will play a big role in optimizing 5G networks.”

The report focuses on the concept of network slicing and explores an end-to-end 5G system framework to build customized network slices. It also discusses the application of network slicing to air-interface technologies as well as the development of the long-range technology roadmap and solutions for E2E network slicing in 5G and beyond.

Members of 5G Americas wrote Network Slicing for 5G Networks that is available for free download on the 5G Americas website. Co-leaders of the white paper working group are Rao Yallapragada and Clara Li of Intel as well as Sabareesan Soundarapandian of Ericsson.