A new European coalition is forming to focus specifically on 5G network slicing. The 5G-Transformer Project consists of a group of 18 companies including mobile operators, vendors, and universities. The goal is to use network slicing, which capitalizes on the capabilities of software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), orchestration, and analytics, to support a variety of vertical industries such as automotive, healthcare, and media.
Adding another 5G-focused group to the already long list of organizations created around 5G seems a bit excessive. However, this is the first organization formed to focus solely on network slicing.
Members of the group include NEC, Ericsson, Nokia, InterDigital, Orange, and Telefonica, as well as several academic institutions. The project, which received $8.9 million in funding from the European Commission, will last for 30 months.
The group is tasked with three primarily goals:
1. Develop a way to create and manage network slices for vertical industries through abstraction, simple interfaces, and service blueprints;
2. Evolve the 5GEx cross-domain orchestration initiative (an existing project developed by 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership group under the Horizon 2020 initiative); and
3. Augment the current design of the underlying 5G-Crosshaul transport network by integrating it with a multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform to support vertical industries.
The 5G-Transformer Group is expected to have trials at different test beds in Europe in 2018 and 2019.
Horizon 2020, 5GPPP, and 5GEx
The 5G-Transformer project is being funded by the European Commission, which is significant because the EC is also providing funding for Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 is an EU public and private research program that has captured $89.8 billion in funding in over seven years (2014 until 2020). The goal of Horizon 2020 is increase Europe’s competitiveness through research and innovation.
Various European 5G projects exist under the Horizon 2020 purview, including 5GPPP and 5GEx. The 5GPPP is considered one of the frontrunners in 5G standardization. It has a broad scope of goals for network standards including 1000x increased capacity, 90 percent reduced energy (particularly in mobile), drastically reduced service creation time cycle, secure and ubiquitous coverage with low latency, dense wireless communication links, and an increase in user security. In addition, the group also aims to hold 20 percent of the 5G standards essential patents. The group expects to conduct research and development through 2017, with standardization and trials beginning the following year.
5GEx was created in 2015 by the 5GPPP and Ericsson to unify the European 5G infrastructure market, which has numerous operators and technologies. The group was charged with creating orchestration and automated provisioning across multiple vendors and multiple operators using NFV and SDN. The project is supposed to last until March 2018 and now includes more vendors and operators including Huawei, HPE, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Telenor.