When you hear the word “slice” what do you think of? Even for a techie like me, the first thing that comes to mind is pizza. In my family, pizza night is a big event. Everybody has their own crust and topping requirements, and of course size of slice matters too. Every kid wants the biggest slice possible, while us grown-ups usually opt for a smaller slice but perhaps with an extra helping of jalapeño chilies. And if anyone gets a piece of someone else’s slice, things can get very tricky!
Yet while pizza night can get complicated, when compared to networks, the stakes are miniscule.
In the communications and media industry, the rollout of 5G has made slice and network slicing familiar terms, and it’s generally recognized that the sliceable network is set to be a 5G monetization gamechanger. Two of the key things that operators need to get right around network slicing are:
- Guaranteed isolation for each slice in terms of network operation
- Commitment to differentiated quality of service to guarantee compliance with the requirements of each slice or slice-based service
And like the pizza analogy, each industry vertical, customer or use case will have specific requirements around 5G characteristics like latency, throughput or bandwidth. As an example, emergency services such as firefighters, police and ambulance demand dedicated network capacity and low latency end to end across the network, where and when it is needed.
On the other hand, stadiums offering large-scale events need a high-bandwidth slice that supports massive amounts of data for enhanced services like augmented and virtual reality, and real-time data feeds. Automation for mining, agriculture and other large-scale industries will also benefit from the extended volume of concurrent users offered by 5G network slicing to support infrastructure monitoring and telemetry on a reliable, high-throughput system. From a consumer perspective, gaming is one of the obvious examples of an industry that will gain considerably from the low latency and increased capacity of 5G. Clearly, many areas of our lives will become increasingly streamlined and enhanced through the capabilities of 5G slice-based services.
With operators in developed mobile markets already having started to deploy 5G networks commercially, the primary driver for the large investments necessary for 5G is precisely these innovative and differentiated services. But the real turning point for operators’ 5G business models looks set to be the second phase of 5G rollouts – migration to 5G New Radio Standalone (NR SA) networks. 5G NR SA will enable a far wider range of differentiated services, user experiences and pricing options than the current non-standalone (NSA) networks, which still rely on the existing 4G core.
Putting pragmatic, step-by-step roadmaps in place now, while identifying the strongest use case priorities, will help operators to succeed during the challenging but critical phase of 5G NR SA deployment. According to Caroline Gabriel, Principal Analyst at Analysys Mason, in her recent report, “The critical role of the sliceable network in 5G monetization”, there are three key changes that operators must make on their 5G journey to realize an effective return on their investment in 5G and achieve competitive differentiation:
- Transform the RAN to support higher capacities and a lower TCO
- Introduce a cloud-based network with high levels of automation and re-engineered processes based on IT norms
- Deploy a cloud-native core and full services platform on top of those foundations, including slicing
5G network slicing management is key to achieving this ROI, as it provides a necessary foundation for service innovation and monetization. End-to-end 5G network slice orchestration and automation optimize the efficient utilization of network resources whilst also enabling adaptive, real-time responsiveness and tuning to specific business and customer needs in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Network performance and service quality can be controlled and guaranteed end to end across all network domains, thereby ensuring that investment in 5G network fulfills its potential, slice by slice.
Amdocs 5G Slice Manager provides automated multi-vendor and cross-domain network slice lifecycle management from design to orchestration and operations through to monetization - just one of the automation journeys offered by Amdocs NEO service and network automation platform.
So back to family pizza night … 5G network slicing is a bit like being very sure, despite a large family gathering, that I will get exactly the slice of pizza I ask for, jalapeño chilies and all. And that no one else will get their sticky fingers on a piece of my pizza!