Network slicing potential with 5G

By: Myriam Rosselli and Christian Petrus

5G is known for high throughput, low latency and multiple frequencies in a single underlying network. But 5G also creates the possibility of having several logical networks answering different needs.

Digital transformation demands exponentially more data traffic, a variety of business usages and a high level of criticality. This all makes access to this capability of 5G mandatory. This is the concept of network slicing, and even though not yet standardized, it could be one of the major assets of 5G.

Network slicing can be considered a logical set of resources that will provide defined network performance characteristics, such as bandwidth, latency, priority and reliability. To fit the service requirements, 5G slicing should be dynamic.

At this point, SDN/NFV technologies become one of the pillars of 5G networks. The implementation of these technologies by telcos will allow the orchestration of resources such as processing, memory, storage and networking. With the help of virtualization, operators are able to dynamically configure or reconfigure these resources according to service requirements or changing conditions in the network. With SDN/NFV, the slices can be set up quickly and managed dynamically to deliver concrete services.

However, with the current status of the standardization, this dynamic 5G slicing may not appear before 2023. Realistically, in the coming two or three years, a kind of static slicing will emerge where the slices are already instantiated, and the device has to proceed with the slice selection.

Within B2B, companies moving to SD-WAN are able to optimize the usage of their connectivity, Internet versus MPLS, thanks to intelligent routing. They aim to simplify the management of their sites, while orchestrating their network centrally in real time. Site management can be more reactive and flexible. End-user experience is enhanced, thanks to the application visibility features, offering more control and segmentation. Network managers are better informed, enabling them to react fast and make the right decisions.

Once they are available, 5G capabilities will be leveraged in combination with SD-WAN. Vice-versa, 5G will boost SD-WAN capacities. Three compelling advantages illustrate this:

  • Firstly, time to connect versus fixed line. This is already the case with 4G and will be further reinforced with 5G by the higher speed of these connections with an SD-WAN network.
  • Secondly, there is “Best of Network usage,” which was demonstrated for the first time during the Orange Business Summit held the 18th of April in Paris. Orange Business and Nokia have collaborated on the SD-WAN over 5G use case, showcasing the seamless connectivity of the Orange SD-WAN solution over a combination of fiber and 5G. This real-time live scenario demonstrated a high-definition videoconference routed automatically over 5G when congestion occurred on the initial fiber link. This combination of both 5G and SD-WAN has demonstrated a high degree of reliability of performance.
  • Finally, the applications segmentation and path choice will reach a higher level thanks to the combination of SD-WAN function and 5G slicing. SD-WAN presents many choices in terms of levels of availability, bandwidth and security best adapted to the activities of each company. Examples include virtual reality maintenance, a remote medical procedure, or the connection of critical industrial sites.

Dynamic slicing facilitates end-to-end dynamic allocation and tailored partitioning from radio to core network, matching customer traffic patterns and particular business requirements. With real-time SD-WAN application routing and orchestration, 5G and SD-WAN intelligence will be combined.

5G blurs the lines between (SD-)WAN and (SD-)LAN, and this creates brand new use cases and even potential new business models. For example, industrial sites could leverage 5G + SD-WAN technology to connect priority business traffic such as production robots. Hospitals could replace physical cables in surgery rooms and ensure asepsis and medical equipment monitoring.

With the arrival of 5G and the network slicing possibilities it brings with it, a new pillar of intelligent connectivity is coming.

Christian Petrus
Christian Petrus
Christian is in charge of strategic marketing and innovation within the Orange Business Connectivity Business Unit. Some of the key transformation projects in which he is involved include software-defined products, virtualization, digitization, artificial intelligence, edge computing and API.
Outside his professional life, Christian enjoys artistic activities, such as playing music, especially jazz. He also loves photographing his personal travels.