5G was developed to enable not only faster internet and download speeds for mobile cellphone users, but also to complete massive interconnectivity among Internet of Things (IoT) devices and provide the juice for everything from self-driving cars to smart cities.
It is estimated there will be 1.2 billion 5G network connections by 2025 accounting for 40% of the global population – 2.7 billion people.
Despite the 5G networks versatile architecture that frees up band width spectrum, could demand someday outstrip availability? Many in the industry are fearful that this will be the case.
One solution to meet future 5G demand as well as 5G NR standards is to step up offloading. This is the use of complementary network technologies for delivering data originally targeted for cellular networks. Offloading reduces the amount of data being carried on the cellular bands, freeing bandwidth for other users is stepped up.
Another option to support the numerous and varied services envisaged in 5G is network slicing, which allows a network operator to provide dedicated virtual networks with functionality specific to the service or customer over a common network infrastructure.
Network slicing uses the same principles behind software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) in fixed networks. SDN and NFV are now being commercially deployed to deliver greater network flexibility by allowing traditional network architectures to be partitioned into virtual elements that can be linked (also through software).
Network slicing allows multiple virtual networks to be created on top of a common shared physical infrastructure.
The virtual networks are then customized to meet the specific needs of applications, services, devices, customers or operators.
From a business model perspective, each network slice is administrated by a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). The infrastructure provider (the owner of the telecommunication infrastructure) leases its physical resources to the MVNOs that share the underlying physical network. According to the availability of the assigned resources, a MVNO can autonomously deploy multiple network slices that are customized to the various applications provided to its own users.
However, while the current 5G specifications provide possible implementation elements and use cases, they don’t yet specify exactly how network slicing would work. What we do know is that slices exist both in the radio network and in 5G Core, and the two may be connected or linked to create a slice that envelopes a complete 5G service experience.
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