Ericsson, SK Telecom commit to network slicing as part of 5G initiative

Any way you dice or slice it, operators will be incorporating network slicing in their 5G networks, and Ericsson's (NASDAQ: ERIC) deal this week with South Korean operator SK Telecom only solidifies the companies' commitment to the technology.

This figure shows 5G network slices implemented on the same infrastructure. (Source: NGMN 5G White Paper)

Ericsson and SK Telecom signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the development of a 5G core network that deploys network slicing technology. The collaboration will leverage Ericsson's Regional Cloud Lab and Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System, Ericsson HDS 8000, with plans to have it ready by the end of this year.

Operational since 2014, Ericsson's lab supports operators with development and verification of cloud, network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) technologies. The lab is distributed across four sites in North East Asia, including Anyang in South Korea, Beijing and Shanghai in China, and Tokyo in Japan.

Here's how SK Telecom defines a network slice, or so-called 5G network slicing: "Within a mobile network, the core network plays the role of a control tower by performing fundamental tasks such as authenticating customers and transmitting data," a spokeswoman said in a statement to FierceWirelessTech. "Since customers have to go through the core network to reach the wireless network so as to access the mobile Internet, evolution of the core network is essential in realizing a true 5G network. 5G Network Slicing is a technique developed to provide customized services by categorizing and adding intelligence to network features through core network virtualization."

"To be specific, at present, [a] multitude of services -- including IoT, mobile banking, video/music streaming and SNS -- are all provided over one network," the company said. "However, with 5G Network Slicing technique, an optimized network environment can be set for each and every service, thus enhancing the overall network operational efficiency. With 5G network slicing, we will be able to immediately introduce new services that will lead the 5G era."

A 5G white paper by the NGMN Alliance, of which SK is a member along with service providers around the world, talks about a network slice, namely a "5G slice," that supports a particular connection type with a specific way of handling the control and user planes.

"The intention of a 5G slice is to provide only the traffic treatment that is necessary for the use case, and avoid all other unnecessary functionality," the NGMN white paper states. "The flexibility behind the slice concept is a key enabler to both expand existing businesses and create new businesses. Third-party entities can be given permission to control certain aspects of slicing via a suitable API, in order to provide tailored services."

As Ericsson describes it in its 5G white paper, each use case will require a different configuration of requirements and parameters in the network, and each use case will require its own network slice. "Networks will be built in a flexible way so that speed, capacity and coverage can be allocated in logical slices to meet the specific demands of each use case," the paper states.

Last year, Ericsson-LG and SK Telecom announced an agreement to cooperate on research and development efforts involving SDN, NFV and the cloud. Network slicing will be implemented using service provider SDN, NFV and network orchestration, Ericsson says.

For more:
- see this RCR Wireless News story
- see this release

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