How to get a slice of the 5G action – the role of network slicing in 5G launches

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By: Angela Logothetis, VP, Amdocs Open Network CTO

There are numerous approaches to rolling out and monetizing 5G networks. Network slicing plays a key role in each of them – utilizing the characteristics and capacity of the network to launch and monetize services with specific SLAs.

Major service providers across the globe are employing varying approaches to the initial rollout of 5G – depending on their spectrum, fiber and LTE assets. The strategies they choose will largely dictate the services and use cases they bring to market to monetize their 5G investment:

  • New 5G mmWave spectrum will deliver the very high speeds promised by 5G – up to 40 times the average speed of existing 4G technology – enabling a UHD (ultra-high definition) movie to be downloaded in under 10 seconds. For the first time, it will be possible to stream the latest 4K or 8K movies – something that will be very appealing to Gen Zeds. But to achieve such speeds, service providers will need to massively densify their networks with fiber to the antenna and placing an antenna every mile or less. Current coverage is limited to selected streets in major cities with almost no indoor coverage. This means that in the interim, operators will likely launch fixed wireless access broadband services for residential or small and medium-sized businesses. Alternatively, they may launch mobile broadband hotspots enabling 5G speeds for ten or so connecting devices.

Moreover, since the SLA associated with mobile broadband is speed, operators will want to slice the network to deliver and assure speed of service. In the future, the mmWave approach to 5G will support the launch of location-specific services. Examples include AR/VR-based services in a theme park or a virtual shopping setting. These services will depend on location-specific SLAs delivered by network slicing.

  • Low-band spectrum, on the other hand, can be used to quickly and cost-effectively roll out nationwide 5G. This enables operators to upgrade existing rural and nationwide antennae to deliver 5G speeds on average 20% faster than 4G. While that’s not the sort of speed typically associated with 5G, it does nevertheless allow you to download a UHD movie in less than 10 minutes anywhere in the country – at home, at work, shopping, eating or travelling – outdoors or indoors. Service providers following this deployment strategy will likely bundle OTT video content with their 5G service, while using network slicing to provide uniform quality of service – resulting in the best streaming video service, no matter where you are.
  • Mid-band spectrum offers a good balance between speed and coverage, with speeds up to ten times those of 4G. This technology is mostly being rolled out in metropolitan areas and is able to provide some level of indoor coverage, enabling a UHD movie to be downloaded in less than two minutes. However, there is a challenge: spectrum is scarce and is heavily used for 4G LTE. To circumvent this problem, operators are working to enhance their LTE networks with MIMO, densification and LAA (license assisted access), in order to achieve lower-end 5G speeds.

Furthermore, using dynamic spectrum sharing, this mid-band spectrum can be more efficiently utilized by dividing it between 4G and 5G, enabling service providers to push more content and capability to the edge of these networks. This allows them to leverage existing devices, spectrum and network whilst delivering higher speed and lower latency content. Then, with network slicing, it’s possible to specify the exact resources the slice needs. This allows essential resources to be added to the slice, while at the same time avoiding unnecessary investment.

Our view is that over time, service providers will end up with layered networks, which may include:

  • High density mmWave networks providing 1-10Gbps speeds in dense urban areas, supporting new services like AR/VR, 8K streaming video and mobile gaming
  • Nationwide low-band networks delivering a uniform 100Mbps speed (2-3 times the speed of LTE) everywhere
  • Mid-band metropolitan networks providing 500Mbps speeds (10 times the speed of LTE), enabling a vast range of new services where we live and work (e.g. smarter cities, automated hotels, remote offices)

Of course, 5G is about more than just speed – it delivers lower latency, higher capacity and better security, and moves processing from the device to the edge. With 5G network slicing, service providers can better leverage these capabilities to deliver and monetize differentiated services.

Yet regardless of which strategies service providers use to roll out and monetize 5G, the introduction of network slicing will inevitably give rise to new complexity in managing the service lifecycle. Realizing the full business potential of 5G will therefore require service providers to address this challenge with intelligent management and automation solutions.

To learn how Amdocs 5G Slice Manager enables service providers to manage and monetize 5G network slices from design to creation, launch and ongoing closed-loop operations, visit www.amdocs.com/5G-Slice

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.