Our previous Virtual Networks SIG event examined the rise of private networks with the focus very much on bespoke, local, private deployments of infrastructure to deliver bespoke services to closed user groups. This approach is fine over limited geographies but how do we deliver private network like experience over regional or national coverage areas?
The original vision of 5G was a network capable of breaking away from the one size fits all consumer focused services of previous generations to deliver the infamous triangle of services. 5G was always meant to be flexible enough to deliver a range of service experiences to meet the requirements of disparate user groups; from high bandwidth and low latency immersive applications, to low bandwidth IoT and sensors, to safety critical control signalling for autonomous vehicles and every blend across these. To deliver this a new Service Based Architecture (SBA) was envisaged in 3GPP built on the pillars of network virtualisation and Software Defined Networking (SDN). This SBA can ideally orchestrate resources on demand and as needed to deliver customised service chains to meet the requirements of individual user groups; this is the concept of network slicing.
Ideally, network slicing provides the opportunity to deliver private network like experience from existing public network infrastructure. Benefits of this include potential for:
- New higher value revenue streams for mobile network operators from non-consumer user groups with bespoke service requirements
- Infrastructure cost savings by:
- Reusing existing public network infrastructure as a baseline to build upon and add incremental infrastructure to
- Benefitting from “elasticity” and new infrastructure as a service models in virtualised networks when dimensioning for peak demands
Whilst network slicing is promising in theory it has been slow to gain momentum in practice. Key challenges include:
- End to end orchestration of network resources
- How to dimension infrastructure for slices and guaranteed service levels
- The business case for slicing – there is some hesitancy to invest in new infrastructure until willingness to pay amongst these new user groups is clear
- The business practices of slicing – changing ways of working in mobile network operators to take full advantage of more agile, IT based infrastructure whilst still delivering guaranteed service levels. Also mechanisms for charging for a slice are yet to be established.
In this event, we will provide a reality check on network slicing and the vision of delivering private services from public network infrastructure. Our speakers will give a status update on slicing, key remaining challenges and the roadmap to deployment.