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Network slicing explained and how it can accelerate 5G for business

Wireless carriers continue their race to deploy their 5G networks across the U.S., but even when the race concludes, another question will arise—what’s the best way to ensure customers get what they need from the network?

It’s safe to say that customers’ 5G needs will vary—some might need the network to operate their smart home, while others will rely on 5G speeds to keep their factory’s IoT (Internet of Things) devices running efficiently. Larger scale uses for 5G include operating an area’s smart energy grid. While each use case will benefit from 5G, they all have specific ways in how the fifth generation of wireless connectivity will apply to them. 5G is not a one size fits all situation.

The solution for operators is network slicing—operators best answer on “how to build and manage a network that meets and exceeds the emerging requirements from a wide range of users,” according to Ericsson.

What is network slicing?

Ericsson explains the network slice as a logically separated, self-contained, independent and secured part of a network. To create a sliced network, it must be transformed into a set of logical networks that sit atop a shared infrastructure. Each slice targets different services with different requirements when it comes to speed, latency and reliability. Slice characteristics include low latency, high bandwidth and ultra-reliability for a critical IoT use case, or higher latency, but lower bandwidth for a massive IoT use case.

“Each logical network is designed to serve a defined business purpose and comprises of all the required network resources, configured and connected end-to-end,” the company said in its report, Network slicing: A go-to market guide to capture the high revenue potential.

Network slices can be dedicated to a single enterprise customer or shared among several tenants. As a sample breakdown, one network slice might comprise dedicated radio, transport and a core resource like dedicated user plane function at the edge. Meanwhile another slice could share radio and transport resources between tenants, but provides dedicated core network functions per tenant.

Network slicing benefits

Ericsson acknowledged that not all 5G use cases will require network slicing, but the company estimates that between 25 and 30% of potential use cases will need slicing as an enabler.

“Many use cases will also have the potential for early deployment, including mobile cloud gaming, mission-critical push-to-talk, remote broadcast, software over-the-air updates, and predictive maintenance of rail tracks and powerlines,” Ericsson said.

Meanwhile, end-to-end network slicing will enable new business model innovation and use cases across all verticals and create new revenue opportunities for communication service providers. The concept can also provide service flexibility and the ability to deliver services faster with high security and isolation.
“Network Slicing enables operators to maximize the return on investment via efficient usage and management of the network resources and provide differentiated services at scale,” the company said in its report.

Additionally, network slicing will help address top enterprises’ needs. 5G will deliver new technologies and generate new business opportunities throughout various industries and enterprises will be seeking out inventive solutions to meet their needs and leverage such opportunities. These enterprise users want automated business and operational processes from beginning to end—starting with ordering the service all the way through de-commissioning the service. There’s also the matter of faster service delivery that’s also incredibly secure. Network slicing can address those needs for enterprises and more, according to Ericsson.

“With network slicing, communication service providers can meet all the needs from their enterprise customers,” the company said.

Joe Dyton can be reached at

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