Network slicing nears its moment of truth after Telefónica and Ericsson test

5G network slicing is inching ever closer to becoming a commercial reality after Telefónica and Ericsson tested out some new bells and whistles.

Slicing, for anyone who doesn’t know by now, sees one physical network partitioned into multiple virtual networks, the parameters of each capable of being tweaked to suit the varying requirements of different use cases.

The technology has been around for a few years now, with demonstrations and trials regularly making headlines. However, it is taking a long time to get slicing ready for widespread, commercial adoption. One of the biggest hold-ups has been the rollout of 5G standalone (SA) networks, the key ingredient of slicing. Then there are devices, which need to support both standalone and slicing in order for it to work.

Slowly but surely though, the industry is getting there, and this week Telefónica and Ericsson revealed they have tested some new features that bring slicing within easier reach.

One of these elements is automated provision and lifecycle management of end-to-end network slices. Telefónica and Ericsson claim that it can reduce the time it takes to configure and deploy a new slice to less than 35 minutes. Making the process quick and simple is key to lowering those crucial barriers to adoption. The test also demonstrated traffic prioritisation within a single network slice, such as radio resource planning (RRP), which enables the sharing of capacity between use cases with different service requirements. Furthermore, Telefónica and Ericsson also showed off simultaneous access by a handset to multiple network slices, and control over which data is sent over which slice.

As is usual with tests of this nature, Telefónica and Ericsson had a helping hand from device makers. In this case it was Google Pixel, Samsung, TCL and Xiaomi. Chipset vendors MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung’s LSI arm also participated.

In an effort to accelerate the standardisation and mass adoption of network slicing, Telefónica, Ericsson and Google have also agreed to share their findings with the GSMA and the broader telco industry.

“Bringing together the end-to-end ecosystem required for network slicing to thrive as a product is key for Telefonica and the rest of the telco industry. We are proud of being one of the first operators to demonstrate the benefits and differentiators of network slicing to our customers thanks to radio resource partitioning and automation for full end-to-end slicing life cycle management,” Cayetano Carbajo, director of core and transport within Telefónica’s global CTIO unit, in a statement on Monday.

The test took place at a lab called 5TONIC in Madrid, which was established by Telefónica and IMDEA Networks, a not-for-profit that promotes research and higher education in areas like telecommunications and networking. The test covered several slicing use cases, including 360-degree video production, remote control of an automated guided vehicle (AGV), and gesture recognition. Together with Ericsson and other industry players, Telefónica said it wants to develop more slicing use cases that can be implemented across its operating footprint.

“We look forward to continue the collaboration with our partners and the rest of the industry to make slicing a commercial success for all,” Cayetano said.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Nick Outram 22/07/2022 @ 5:54 pm

    I visited one of the first 5G Use Case Conferences about 3 years ago and ‘Network Slicing’ to me seemed one of the key stand-out features to help monetize 5G for MNOs -most of which were complaining about the upcoming predicted 5G network rollout costs.
    I think slicing could eventually go beyond B2B/C and form part of a new set of offered services to allow ‘content producers’ to monetize their experiences for example, renting half an hour of dedicated high bandwidth 5G to give a group tour of a historic site. This level of slicing granularity and the MNO business stack wrapper to enable is still some way off but could open up whole new Industries IMO.

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