Network evolution towards 5G will bring outstanding novelties and improvements not only regarding capacity, latency, connection density, quality and user experience, but also in terms of flexibility, efficiency, scalability and openness of the network. This will create a wide range of possibilities to offer new services.
Among the new breakthroughs 5G will bring, we can highlight Network slicing, a key technology that will transform fixed and mobile networks and allow operators to provide multiple virtual networks each serving diverse services with different needs and requirements, over a common physical infrastructure in a transparent and dynamic way.
For instance, in a 5G system, thanks to the slicing technology the network can provide connectivity for smart meters by dedicating a network slice for Internet of Things (IoT) devices with high availability and high reliability characteristics, and with given latency, data rate and security levels. At the same time, other slices can coexist with it offering very high throughput, high data speeds and low latency characteristics for e.g. augmented reality services or high-definition video applications.
We believe that Telefónica´s significant involvement in 5G research is relevant because it allows us to dig deeply into potentially disrupting technologies, which could open the door to new vertical markets that can be as attractive as the better-known enhanced mobile broadband. It is a journey that we are going through and this effort will be worth it, not only to be among the first ones in the market, but also to be able to equip our network with even better capabilities and more efficient and scalable architectures.
5G systems are expected to have built-in support of multiple network slices from the very beginning, thus allowing telecom operators to provide network-as-a-service, opening network capabilities to third parties, and meet the wide range of 5G use cases that users, businesses and industry are expected to demand.
With network slicing, a wide variety of service needs can be addressed in a much more effective way than traditional traffic management techniques. Network Slicing can bring the potential of instantiating network functions in whatever network node is more convenient, in a flexible and dynamic way. This increases the agility when deploying new network capacity or functionality.
Such network flexibility extends beyond the capabilities of the QoS framework, and brings potentially new dimensions to our services like, for instance, the possibility to offer ultra-low latency, ultra-reliable communications by deploying some network functions and applications closer to the edge. Another example could be the capability of delivering (virtual) private cellular networks, in a much more flexible way. In the past, dedicated network usages like the one mentioned for IoT had to be developed in an ad-hoc manner, with the resulting increase in cost and complexity. Therefore, it was unfeasible to provide this kind of services with former technologies.
5G will be able to provide such services by means of a secure network cloud hosted by the operator, with the added advantages of security, reliability and flexibility.
Thanks to 5G and the Network Slicing a wide range of possibilities will be available to offer sustainable services to other industries.
Network slicing is still a concept and requires the development of some basic underlying technologies, such as: virtualization, cloud RAN, cloud control of the network lifecycle, a fully automated management and orchestration mechanism, a flexible air interface allowing multiple different usages of the network, and a flexible transport scheme, among others.
Telefónica is fully committed to the transformation of our networks towards the paradigm of network slicing.
The original version of this article first appeared on Telefónica.