Network slicing is 5G’s way to get you everything. What is 5G network slicing? It is slicing up the wireless networks to serve specific purposes. You see, one network will not provide all services for everyone, so they have 5G which will encompass many networks, wireless networks, into one big network. You can’t do everything with one wireless network. Like Steven Wright says, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” If you had one network, it would not be efficient enough to serve all the devices on it. You want a network that works. Otherwise, you have a notwork because it does not work! Most IOT devices don’t need broadband. Most smartphones need mobile coverage. Most laptops need broadband. Most gamers need massive broadband to get the VR to work. Each specific group has a different need. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have several different wireless networks and have them all go into one core and share resources? Well, 5G came up with network slicing so we can do just that!
The research on network slicing showed me one thing that this is a fancy way to say different networks all connected to a common core. I think this term is interesting, but if you are in IT, then you know that you could have multiple networks, virtual or separated, all sharing the same backbone or even the same physical network. The way I see it, it is all about the RAN! Let’s explore why.
Well, in 5G, it is not much different. The big difference is that you could have a wireless network dedicated to a specific service. What this means is that when planning a network, in this case, a RAN network, make sure you know what the application will be so that you can plan accordingly.
Think about the different markets 5G will be serving. It could be autonomous cars, virtual reality, or tons of simple IOT devices. Each system will have different need and purpose. The goals are not the
same for each. Therefore, they should not all share the same network. So, for the 5G network to include them all, they came up with a cool term like network slicing. The reality is that they will all be different networks that could be sharing the same core or even backhaul. We are creating a way to share resources and build in efficiencies.
We’ll get into why in a few minutes, let’s look at how they will work together first. It’s all about sharing of resources. Think of the HetNet and how we had small cells working with Macrocells and Wi-Fi all working together as one network. Now you have multiple networks all working independently, yet, connecting to the common core.
Which resources are shared in network slicing? The backhaul and the core but also routers and servers and possibly even cloud resources. The key to getting latency down is to rely on the cloud. However, the end use will determine which network will be used and how it will be utilized. The way I see it, from a wireless viewpoint is that the device will need to have a wireless network that fits the needs. In other words, virtual reality with need low latency and very high bandwidth to work properly. Autonomous cars will have very low latency but lower bandwidth needs. IOT devices will have medium latency but very low data rates, and they will not be listening to the network all the time like the other 2, they will only listen to the network on a need to know basis.
The examples above show us that there will be a need for specific wireless networks to serve each purpose. The common denominator will the core. The core will need to know how to process each part of the network. Making the major carriers happy that they have resource sharing capabilities to save costs. They want to reuse as many resources as possible. Device manufacturers will continue to improve devices and battery life.
Although, battery life is still an issue. While battery life has greatly improved, the power draw is so much higher than it was five years ago, Hell, it’s so much higher than even a year ago, While the processors are drawing less and less power, we have higher demands on many of our devices, like the smartphone. We want bigger and brighter displays, and we are on them for most of the day not only to talk but to gather data. Even when you are not talking on your phone, the chances are good that it’s getting updates for email or other data without you even looking at it, drawing on the battery even more. Not only that but the constant communication with the LTE and Wi-Fi networks are drawing power all day.
Back to network slicing. We will have several different use cases for the network, which will require a specific last mile network to serve the purpose. It seems a bit crazy to have multiple wireless networks until you realize that billions of devices will be connected and each group will have a specific purpose. Each group will have a unique revenue stream. Some will be high usage and draw more money per month and others will have extremely light usage and will only cost pennies a month. Each slice of the network is built for a specific purpose, and the billing for each slice will be dramatically different. Here are the efficiencies.
These networks will be running in parallel to each other. They will be independent of each other but have a common core. With the growth of software defines networking, SDN, and Network Function Virtualization, NFV, the networks will become smarter and smarter and start to improve efficiencies without human intervention. It’s already happening, but it will get better and better with improved efficiencies.
While all of this will be interconnected, they will be isolated from each other. Some networks will be independent of each other. The key to slicing is even though networks share resources, they will not be reliant on each other to keep the network up and running, (unless the core crashes).
The drawback is the core will control everything. Get to the core, and you get to the heart of multiple networks all at one time. If they make changes to the core, they need to be sure it will not affect the other networks. I would imagine that updating the server controlling the IOT network would have no effect on the autonomous driving network. But, what if it does? Then a real problem will be at hand!
The core will be the key connecting point to these networks. Running on the cloud should help efficiencies along with the rise of the virtual core, the impact should be minimal. Just remember, they all need a brain, and that brain is the core!
You could have several companies serving several markets, like the carriers taking care of smartphone users and someone like SigFox working with the IOT users and maybe someone else taking care of virtual reality and yet another company taking care of autonomous automobiles.
While this is a slice if heaven, (sorry, I couldn’t resist), we expect each slice to be running independently of the other even though they share a common core.
Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!
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