Australian operator Telstra is taking a deep-dive on network slicing so it can get some firsthand experience on how to manage multiple slices and monetize the technology.
Speaking at the Network Slicing Summit 2017, a virtual event hosted by TelecomsRadar, David Aders, general manager of development for wireless network engineering at Telstra, said the service provider has been working with network slicing since 2015. And while its work has focused on testing network slicing on its 4G network, the company believes it is getting some useful insight into some of the challenges operators will face when it comes to provisioning slices on the 5G network.
Charging a Premium
While many vendors have talked about the various use cases for network slicing, Aders added some clarity to the business model. For example, Telstra believes that if it can deliver multiple slices and offer redundancy, then if a failure occurs in one network slice it won’t impact the customers in another slice. This type of redundancy could be a selling point that some customers would pay a premium for, Ader said.
“If we can offer DR [disaster recovery] redundancy, we could reduce that to just the premium slices for customers that require that type of reliability. And we can upsell those slices to customers,” he said.
He also envisions carving out a slice for those that don’t mind some network latency or lower data rate if they can pay less. But the problem is that eventually that slice might attract a larger number of subscribers. “If over time the number of subscribers outstrip that slice, we have to be able to design a slice that will scale,” he said, noting that it will also have to be done economically because those users are low-revenue users.
Customizing Your Order
But network slicing comes with some challenges. For example, how does an operator prioritize the slices? And how does it upgrade certain services or provide customer support? Those elements add a lot of complexity to the network. “How do you manage all those slices?” Ader asked.
The answer is automation, he said. Because the 5G standard will include end-to-end slicing, meaning that slicing will work across the radio, backhaul transport, and the core, he expects that a lot of orchestration and provisioning will be included in the standards process.
In the 5G world, Ader envisions customers being able to customize their 5G slice just like they customize their order at a restaurant. “You select the different ingredients, and the orchestration triggers them to create your burger and deliver it in a minute.”