Network Slicing in 5G

The fifth-generation network, popularly known as 5G, is fast gaining traction as the next mobile technology standard. The IEEE 802.11ac-based technology will, over the coming years, replace 4G/LTE technology. It is projected that the global adoption of 5G will stand at 20.1% by 2025. At 50% and 48% respectively, developed Asia and North America will lead the pack.  

Propelled by its capacity to revolutionize network service architecture, the competition to roll out 5G is intensifying. Compared to current network service architectures, 5G offers greater agility and enables providers to offer innovative network services such as Ultra-reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Vehicle to Everything (V2X), and massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC). 

The ability to support such services is enabled by network slicing a key technology in 5G and managed by an End-to-End (E2E) service orchestration. Whereas network slicing is available in 4G, it’s in a very limited capacity, such as isolation of services within infrastructures. With 5G, network slicing is far more advanced as each slice forms a private network. 

This allows carriers to guarantee QoS for each service as they’ll develop virtual data pipelines for every data type service they offer. With this, the speed and quality of transmitting data, especially for mission-critical and time-sensitive services such as autonomous vehicles, will improve significantly. As a result, communications service providers will tap into new revenue streams from sectors such as media, banking, transport, and electric power.

In addition to catalyzing the growth of those industries, 5G, through network slicing, will enable providers to meet each sector’s unique requirements. This whitepaper seeks to explore the nature and role of network slicing in 5G.

Intraway and Network Slicing
At Intraway we are working to offer each DSP the right solution to dynamically orchestrate their network. With Symphonica, it is possible to do End-to-End (E2E) service orchestration (Core, Radio Access and Backhaul) providing the right broadband, latency, reliability and capacity according to each service requirements, either public or private networks and during the complete life cycle of each slice.

Network Slicing in 5G

Network slicing allows vertical industries to access industry-specific solutions via a shared network. This is achieved by creating multiple virtual networks for each industry on shared physical infrastructure. Full network functionality, including core network functions and radio access network functions, will be available in each slice. 

The requirements for 5G are met within two categories based on function differences, analytics of performance counters, O&M modes, and network requirements. The categories are:

  • Public network users

Services offered under 4G networks to individuals will be retained and become more efficient.

  • Industrial network users
  • Common industries

Though there may be variations and customization in connection management, the requirements in terms of service isolation and quality are similar for common industries.

  • Special industries

These are users such as power companies, governments, and armies with specific requirements like high service quality assurance and high isolation.

The network scale effect is high due to the sharing of transmission resources, core network hardware, and radio resources by public and industry networks. UEs can be separated on different networks by using public networks and IoT numbers. That, along with using resources, NEs, and base stations exclusively on different networks, affords operators more configuration mode and architecture flexibility. 

Network Slicing Management

The objective of network slicing management is to ensure the operator’s service requirement to the network slice is as required. It relies on three key elements to achieve this; Communication Service Instance (CSI), which is responsible for operator’s service requirements, Network Slice Subnet Instance (NSSI) used to manage slice requirements, and Network Slice Instance (NSI). 

Management of Network Slice Life Cycle

Steps such as Preparation, Commissioning, Operation, and Decommissioning are part of the network slice life cycle. Each plays a crucial role. Functions such as network slice design, development/onboarding of Network Slice Template (NST), and assessment of the requirements for the network slice are conducted during the preparation phase.

During the Commissioning phase, CSI/NSI/NSSI are created, and the necessary associations between them are set. The next step, the Operation phase, involves activating, modifying and deactivating CSI/NSI/NSSI. These are then terminated during the decommissioning phase.

Dynamic and Automated Network Slice Operation

Dynamic network slices are characterized by end-to-end orchestration. Topology and Orchestration Specification facilitate this for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) template model for closed-loop control and reusable tasks in network slicing. A network slice template must be created to allow instantiation and modification of a network slice. 

The template models, including parameters such as bandwidth, tracking area (cell), capacity, latency, and priority for the RAN and CN Network Slice Subnet Template (NSST), are created during the preparation phase. As this process is ongoing, parameters such as QoS, latency, and bandwidth are used to develop transport network template models. After that, the network slice is installed and configured, summing up the commissioning phase. Thanks to analytics, the network slice will then be activated, and its status observed during the operation phase, with SLAs being met. Once the service’s use is complete, the network slice is deleted during the decommissioning phase.

Analytics and Service Orchestration play a crucial role in network slice life cycle management in the following ways:

  • Commissioning configuration
  • Disaster recovery management
  • Monitoring
  • Topology
  • Root cause analysis

Using closed-loop automation, E2E service orchestration and Analytics create an automated and dynamic slice management ecosystem. With this comes additional features such as automatic optimization, auto-reset, and resolving conflicts with manual operations. Automation ensures resources are automatically relocated based on network slice priority. 

One-Click Network Slice Creation and Provisioning

While deploying network slices, operator intervention for slice instantiation and resource virtualization provisioning for specific services may be critical or unexpected challenges may arise. In such situations, slice templates will help resolve issues while speeding up and enhancing slice instantiation. It is crucial to assess the service flexibility needs and performance requirements thoroughly as network slice templates are being designed. 

With the Network Slicing Manager (NSM), operators gain access to predefined slice templates for standard 5G services. This reduces the workload as the slices can be used as they are customized to suit unique needs. Using slice templates to deploy network slices allows automatic provisioning through configuration file management and plug-and-play mechanism. In essence, it enables one-click creation and provisioning of network slices, which then reduces human error. 

Core Network

5G offers greater speeds, functionality, and flexibility in managing services, for which network slicing plays a crucial role. Operators and organizations can now partner to capitalize on ultra-low latency communications by processing them on a near-by-edge network. In ‘Core slicing,’ there are several factors to consider:

  • Scale and dynamism of network slices
  • Suitability to industry-specific features
  • Pricing differences for network slices
  • Features that may be added to manage the network and identify the slice

Catering to Vertical-Specific Features

Each vertical industry has a wide range and highly-specific needs best defined by the vertical segment’s characteristics. Initial works on 5G SA standardization work in 3GPP begun in 2017. Since then, requests to include specific vertical industries requirements as standard 5G requirements have been common. Through lower latency, industry-specific features, higher data rates, and reliable data transmission, 5G offers industrial revolution.

Vertical features as defined by 3GPP in release 16 of its specification include Virtual Network (VN), Time Sensitive Network (TSN), Non-Public Network (NPN), V2X, URLLC, and cellular IoT. There will be greater flexibility within the networks thanks to network slicing as operators can create multiple logical networks. This ability comes with benefits such as efficiency, reduce costs, and the ability to meet flexible and unique vertical industry requirements.

Charging for Network Slices

Pricing for network slices cannot be standardized. This is because needs such as per subscription accounting information and aggregated network usage vary among vertical industries. A key aspect of core slicing is charging. Based on business needs, customers will request varying network services. These are then delivered to the network slice management system after being converted to SLA. To meet and guarantee such SLAs, the management system deploys and controls its sub-system, CN, RAN, and back-end service components. This makes it easier to bill customers depending on the network services they request and usage.

Insight Drawn from Network Slice Optimization

Network slicing offers dynamic and flexible service delivery as multiple services can run simultaneously and independently on shared infrastructure. As such, creating and destroying a network slice is easy and can be done on demand. Nonetheless, resource optimization is essential to ensure efficient use. By leveraging the power of analytics in network slice optimization, operators gain the ability to scale NSI resources automatically to use resources more efficiently and meet the service requirements for customers.

Overall View

A key driver of the dynamism, efficiency, speed, and success of 5G is its network slicing capabilities. This feature allows operators to guarantee SLA to meet specific client requirements via virtual networks using a common physical infrastructure. Developing such network slices is also easier as there are predefined templates that operators can use. If need be, customizations can be made to meet specific vertical industry needs.

This approach to offering services comes with greater capabilities, improves efficiency, reduces costs, and reduces human error. However, the most significant benefit is that it allows operators to unlock new revenue streams with highly specific network needs.

Intraway and Network Slicing
At Intraway we are working to offer each DSP the right solution to dynamically orchestrate their network. With Symphonica, it is possible to do End-to-End (E2E) service orchestration (Core, Radio Access and Backhaul) providing the right broadband, latency, reliability and capacity according to each service requirements, either public or private networks and during the complete life cycle of each slice.

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