What is network slicing?
Network slicing is a powerful technology to meet the diverse demands of new services on the evolution towards 5G. But you do not need to wait until 5G radio is around to reap the benefits from network slicing. You can use it now, and some innovative operators are.
What is network slicing and why is it a good idea?
Different use cases—such as mobile broadband (MBB), the Internet of Things (IoT), and enterprise—put very different requirements on the network, but you do not want to build separate physical networks for the different services.
Network slicing enables you to build multiple logical networks—network slices—on top of a common shared physical infrastructure. These network slices, typically one for each kind of service, are completely separated and independent to the extent that if something goes wrong in one slice it will not affect the other slices. This separation and independence also enables you to add new slices without impacting the rest of the network.
You can use network slicing for any access technology, and the building blocks for both building and managing a sliced network are available now from Ericsson. For a complete view of Network Slicing, visit our trending section.
How to introduce network slicing in cost-effective way
In order to get started and gather experience from using network slicing, pick an application area that has requirements on the network that are considerably different from those of mobile broadband. A good example of such an application is Massive IoT, which is often a combination of very many pieces of user equipment but has quite low throughput. This combination obviously differs a quite a lot from the typical mobile broadband use case. In order to have a cost-effective way of implementing support for both use cases, introducing a separate network slice for Massive IoT can be an excellent idea.
The main phases in the lifecycle management of network slices are design, commissioning, and operations. Ericsson offers the building blocks available for supporting these phases as well as the features to enable the network to choose the right slice for particular services without having to go through the hassle of assigning different PLMN-IDs to the different slices. This can be done with the function DECOR that is available now. DECOR also has the advantage that it does not have any impact on user equipment.
Start small and scale up
Over time, when you want to the increase the number of slices and/or instances of slices, automation is key to manage the network in an efficient way. Ericsson also offer solutions for automation, such as blueprints and TOSCA/COMPA modeling, but in order to start gaining experience using network slicing we suggest that you start small scale and learn as you go along. To start gaining experience, you do not need to have all the automation support in place but it does pay off when you scale up.
The operators that have introduced network slicing or are in the process of doing so are taking the approach of starting small and learning and evaluating as they go along. In addition to the technological aspects, it is also a good idea to start considering business models for different kinds of services and ways of working when it comes to operating the network.
To learn more about how to introduce network slicing for IoT in a cost-efficient way, I invite you to take a look at a study that BT and Ericsson have conducted and to listen to the webinar where it is being discussed: