China Telecom Shanghai teamed with Huawei on a network slicing trial that assisted the operator in provisioning new services to different types of customers. The trial used Huawei’s OLT MA5800 platform to deliver certain services to specific customer groups depending upon whether they are enterprise, consumer, or a campus user.
China Telecom’s trial of network slicing is part of a bigger trend among network operators to migrate their existing networks, which tend to have a monolithic architecture, to a more flexible architecture that allows them to optimize different “slices” of the network to support specific vertical services. Network slicing is considered a key ingredient in 5G because 5G is envisioned as being able to provide a consistent user experience across a wide variety of applications – from the high-speed, low-latency requirements necessary for transmitting video to the low-bandwidth needs of many Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios.
While 4G networks today can segment parts of the network to provide quality of service (QoS) for certain services and applications such as voice over LTE (VoLTE), some argue that VoLTE is not an example of network slicing because it is made possible through prioritizing traffic rather than slicing network assets.
In the China Telecom trial, Huawei’s optimal line terminal hardware is shared by several services, but the network slices are isolated from each other to ensure security and also service reliability. In addition, the trial found that this type of network slicing helped lower power consumption.
The 3GPP, the mobile industry standards body responsible for creating the 5G standard, is currently working on a 5G network slicing proposal that will likely be part of the technical specification. The 3GPP’s work on network slicing is currently being evaluated, and a final standard is expected to be released in early 2017.
In a white paper released this week by 5G Americas, the trade group outlines the network slicing architecture that includes access slices across both the radio access and fixed access network as well as core network slices.
The paper also describes how network slicing will leverage software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) as well as cloud technology to make the most of the network’s physical and virtual resources.
However, 5G Americas also says that although network slicing holds promise for optimizing 5G networks, there are some questions that need to be addressed first, such as the criteria for network slicing and the coordination of these slices.