Ericsson is working with Swiss operator Swisscom on a 4G and 5G network slicing project that looks at how public safety communications and other critical communications may benefit from the technology. The two companies plan to display the project at next week’s Mobile World Congress 2018 conference in Barcelona, Spain.
Specifically, the two companies are testing RAN slicing and quality of service control, as well as using Ericsson’s core network functionality to see if they can configure dedicated network slices for critical communications.
The tests will also be used to look at other network slicing use cases, such as Internet of Things (IoT) and manufacturing.
In an interview earlier this year with Erik Ekudden, Group CTO of Ericsson, he said that network slicing is a key attribute of 5G networks because it allows the network to be sliced into multiple virtual networks and optimized for a specific vertical application. Network slicing uses the capabilities of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
Ekudden also noted that with network slicing an operator can prioritize traffic and add more security within that slice, both of which are key functions for public safety.
Although network slicing has gained prominence with 5G networks, it is a capability that can be achieved with 4G. And Ericsson said its network slicing capability is available for 4G networks. Affirmed Networks last July said that operators could use the company’s virtual slice selection function (vSSF) to steer traffic into slices over both legacy, virtualized, and multi-vendor networks.
Australian operator Telstra has also been working with network slicing on its 4G network since 2015. The company believes it can use network slicing for things like disaster recovery, where certain customers that need high reliability have premium slices of the network. Alternatively, the carrier believes that some customers don’t care about lower data rates or increased network latency, so they could pay a reduced fee for their slice.