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Ericsson and Nokia both partner with Google for network slicing trials

Google’s network slicing credentials are under the spotlight this week thanks to a fresh round of trials by Europe’s big two telco vendors.

In similar but separate announcements, Ericsson and Nokia each shared details of successful demonstrations of multiple network slices – for both consumer and enterprise use cases – running on a Google Pixel 6 Pro powered by Android 13.

Ericsson and Nokia emphasised their respective network equipment portfolios support one of the key underlying technologies – user equipment (UE) route selection policy (URSP) – that makes all this stuff work. Nokia was also keen to point out that it can enable slicing functionality on 4G as well as 5G networks, via its nifty LTE-5G New Radio (NR) slice interworking functionality.

When enabled, URSP-based network slicing allows for a device to connect to different slices simultaneously, each one configured to support different applications. As Nokia pointed out, it means an enterprise user could use one slice to securely send sensitive corporate data to a colleague while using another to participate in a video meeting. Or, a consumer might use a network slice configured for high bandwidth and low latency for a cloud gaming session.

Ericsson said developers can also specify what kind of connectivity category their app needs – such as bandwidth or latency, for instance – and then the network will use that information to automatically identify and select an appropriate slice.

It’s worth remembering that other network elements are likely to be necessary in order for some of these slicing use cases to work, such as multi-access edge computing (MEC) and storage, for example, which can support ultra low-latency applications for both the consumer and enterprise markets. Support for hybrid cloud environments that ensure business-critical information is stored on-premises will likely be a prerequisite for a lot of organisations too.

Google first announced support for network slicing on Android 12 in November last year. Ericsson and Nokia were involved pretty much from day one, successfully validating Google’s 5G slicing capabilities by integrating them with their respective RAN and core networking solutions. At first glance there doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of difference between slicing on Android 12 and Android 13, other than the latter can support simultaneous connections to more slices – up to five, to be exact.

While Google has plenty of expertise when it comes to networks, devices and operating systems, it doesn’t hurt to rope in two of the biggest names in mobile networking to lend extra credibility to your efforts, especially when those two are among the most vocal proponents of network slicing.

“New application-based URSP slicing solutions widen operator’s 5G network business opportunities. We are excited to develop and test new standards-based URSP technologies with Android that will ensure that our customers can provide leading-edge enterprise and consumer services using Android devices and Nokia’s 4G/5G networks,” said Ari Kynäslahti, head of technology and strategy at Nokia Mobile Networks, in a statement.

“As carriers and enterprises seek a return on their investment in 5G networks, the ability to provide for a wide and varied selection of use cases is of crucial importance. Communications service providers (CSPs) and enterprises who can offer customers the flexibility to take advantage of tailored network slices for both work and personal profiles on a single Android device are opening up a vast reserve of different uses of those devices,” said Monica Zethzon, head of solution area packet core at Ericsson.

Indeed, as Hannes Ekström, head of strategy at Ericsson’s networks business, noted in an interview with Telecoms.com, slicing use cases like these are expected to be among the first to be deployed, with more advanced and mission-critical use cases following later.

If all goes well, ABI Research reckons revenue from 5G network slicing will grow to $24 billion in 2028, up from $309 million this year. Not a bad pay-off for all of Ericsson and Nokia’s evangelising.

 

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