BT and Huawei after a (network) slice of the 5G good life

BT and Huawei are doing their level best to prove they’re not all-mouth-no-trousers, by announcing a 5G networking slicing research endeavour.

The Anglo-Chinese hook-up looks like it is beginning to yield fruit following the 5G Partnership of the Day announcement last December. In it, they said work will begin in earnest on lots of next generation buzzwordy goodness, with network slicing being just one of the many.

Network slicing is a discipline within network virtualization which allows for dedicated instances of the network to be effectively ‘sliced’ off for use by specific applications. That application will carry its own set of network policies to make sure that portion of the network is optimising its resource allocation. For instance, video services stemming from a particular event can be syphoned off into a dedicated network slice purely intended for mobile streaming, thus rendering the main event broadcast unaffected. The same principal can be applied to specific IoT sessions, or gaming, or virtual reality, or any other 5Gish use case.

In the case mentioned above, BT says network slicing can be taken one step further. If an emergency were to break out at the event in question, a dedicated network slice can be spun up (with great agility, of course) for use by emergency services to control a surveillance drone on-site to determine the source of the incident. Safety first, remember.

BT and Huawei reckons they’ve cracked this particular nut over at the operator’s R&D facility, Adastral Park in Ipswich, and announced it will be further researching the technology to make doubly sure.

“Customers are increasingly demanding converged networks that deliver a mix of flexibility, reliability and optimisation,” said Howard Watson, CEO of Technology, Service and Operations at BT. “It’s our role to ensure that our fixed and mobile networks deliver the best possible experience for customers regardless of the demands placed on them. That’s why we’re excited about the possibilities of this stream of research with Huawei, and the added flexibility network slicing may offer, allowing us to better serve specific customer needs as we move towards a 5G world.”

Consumers probably aren’t directly asking BT for a converged network that delivers a mix of flexibility, reliability and optimisation; that’s most likely a direct inference from customer feedback like ‘why isn’t my home internet working?’ or ‘I need to download a cat video on my way to work for the 10,000th time’.

Rarely are consumers so explicit in their communications expectations that the words ‘converged’ and ‘optimisation’ are used, but it’s good to know BT has got its skates on.

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