Nokia to offer network slicing for LTE, 5G

Nokia sign at MWC18
Nokia is already trialing live 4G/5G slicing use cases with A1 Telekom Austria Group and Telia Finland. (FierceWireless)

Nokia is gearing up to offer end-to-end network slicing capabilities for 4G LTE and 5G New Radio (NR) this summer, looking to let operators take advantage of the function before they move to 5G standalone.

Nokia in its release said the capability can be deployed into existing LTE and 5G non-standalone (NSA) networks via a simple software upgrade, and then 5G SA networks later as they’re rolled out.

Network slicing is often talked about as a benefit of moving to the 5G standalone (SA) version of the NR specification (where the core no longer relies on 4G LTE), enabling logical portions or “slices” of the network to be sectioned and tailored to meet the needs of specific customers or applications. Nokia, however, said that there is still work to be finished in standardizing 5G SA slicing technology, and it will take time before the ecosystem is ready enough for wide scale deployments supporting 5G SA network slicing. 

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The Finnish vendor noted there are no devices yet that support full 5G SA network slicing, but millions of 5G NSA-capable and billions of LTE devices in use. The 4G/5G slicing solution is based on 3GPP and IETF standards, supports all LTE and 5G devices, and works in multivendor networks, according to Nokia.

Expected to be available by mid-year, the software provides sliced and managed connectivity from 4G and 5G devices to radio, transport, core, to applications running in both private and public networks and the cloud.  

Nokia is already trialing live 4G/5G slicing use cases with A1 Telekom Austria Group and Telia Finland. Use cases the platform can enable include consumer broadband, entertainment events, IoT, enterprise and fixed wireless access. Nokia also pointed to applications like surveillance and automation that are enabled by private wireless slicing.

These are powered by a unique SDN radio and transport slice controllers, according to Nokia. The trial includes a Nokia cloud packet core slice orchestrator to help with network deployment automation. Also included is an SD-WAN software solution to provide managed 4G/5G network slice to private and public cloud services, for example, like Amazon Web Services.

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“It has been really exciting to be the first operator to conduct a live test of Nokia’s new network slicing feature,” said Jari Collin, CTO of Telia Finland, in a statement. “With slicing, we can efficiently use our spectrum to deliver seamless and reliable connectivity and also strengthen our leading IoT position with nationwide deployment of new technologies like LTE-M and NB-IoT.”

Nokia’s slicing technology aims to help operators take advantage of network slicing capabilities using their current infrastructure to deliver new services and create new opportunities for revenue.  

“For our business customers, it will be a huge advantage to be able to benefit from dedicated mobile communication services, exclusive capacities, strong data security and transmission with high reliability and low latency by integrating A1’s highly reliable and excellent infrastructure and services offering into their internal processes,” said Alexander Kuchar, Director Technology & Future Services, A1 Telekom Austria Group, in a statement. “Network slicing in 4G and extended in 5G will play a key role in allowing A1 to develop new market segments and revenue streams.