One of the more interesting aspects about the excitement surrounding the development and ultimately the deployment of 5G is that it represents a true generational change. In practice, it is being designed to meet the explosive traffic growth generated by both the need to connect everything and everyone and demand for the communication of increasing rich content on a massive scale. In short, it will mean big mobility pipes at higher speeds for “E”verything.
In addition, from an operational perspective, 5G will provide the programmability— agility and automation—needed for the network to be securely and easily managed and highly responsive to the dynamics of a rapidly changing services market. It will be the infrastructure for not just old and new services but the enabler of new business models as well to can be customized for maximum operator and ecosystem partner revenue optimization.
However, the road to the next level of networking nirvana is not without its challenges. In fact, as noted in an Insight article last year by Volker Held, 5G Market Development, Nokia (News - Alert), “today’s mobile networks were designed primarily to deliver mobile broadband. They were not engineered to support the expected growth in demand for digital content and connectivity to machines.”
And, just to be clear, we are talking about truly explosive growth. For example, conservative estimates are that at the current rate of adoption, 3G, 4G/LTE (News - Alert), small cells and Wi-Fi-like technologies will only satisfy about 81 percent of demand forecast by 2020. Bell Labs has predicted a global average increase in demand of 30 times to 45 times from 2014 levels by 2020 with some markets experiencing as much as a 98 times increase.
With all of this in mind, the question that is arising for 5G designers is how to meet the expected demand, i.e., get the most bang for the buck from what is a finite resource, radio spectrum. A recent Insight article by Jason Elliot, 5G Market Development, Nokia, tilted Dynamic network slicing optimizes 5G architecture, provides an answer. In fact, he says that despite different requirements for latency, throughput and availability in a variety of use cases, “The dynamic network slicing concept offers a way to optimize 5G networks to address all use cases efficiently.” He adds that dynamic network slicing enables the design, deployment, customization and optimization of different network slices running on a common network infrastructure. “It leverages innovations in cloud mobile access and core. And it capitalizes on the capabilities of software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV), end-to-end orchestration, network applications, and analytics,” he notes.
What is Dynamic Network Slicing?
Elliot goes into significant detail about what dynamic network slicing is and its advantages. At a high level, the dynamic network slicing concept leverages NFV and SDN. It creates many dedicated end-to-end virtual networks. Where optimization comes in is that all of the virtual networks share the same physical network but handle a different flow class.
A few design concepts are worth noting. The first is that a slice is self-contained. It has all the specific and customized functions — including functions in the terminal — and capability chains that are needed to deliver grouped flows to devices. As Elliot describes, this simplifies operation and management while matching service needs to users and can support a variety of business cases. In addition, all of this slicing and dicing obviously requires a slice orchestrator that manages slices throughout their life cycle.
Why all of this will be so critical is that dynamic network slicing optimizes the entire 5g network, and that is the objective. Today’s networks were not designed to be Swiss Army knives in regards to being optimized for whatever the future may hold, and are not able to meet the customization requirements future customers and services will require. As Elliot states: “To support new communications demands from a wide variety of users, machines, industries, and other organizations, mobile network architectures must evolve. They must move from the current network of entities architecture to a network of capabilities architecture. And they must enable a shift from the current network of connectivity model to a network for services model. The key to this shift lies in how operators manage the performance of their network.”
Realities are that the future is about providing each use case optimal performance. Dynamic network slicing is thus going to be foundational for achieving this goal and doing so in a massive way, easily and with high degrees of agility, security, reliability and responsiveness. And, being optimized for agility is going to be the way for mobile operators to fulfill the promise of 5G and create sustainable differentiated value.
Edited by Alicia Young