Network Slicing in 4G & Previous Generations

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What has the gradual decade-long progression from 4G evolved into and why is 5G network slicing necessary?

The gradual unfolding of a novel core 5G from previous mobile networks generations has revealed that the one-size-fits-all approach to network infrastructure needs to be reimagined.

Let us take a detour into the basic forms of mobile networks that set the foundation for the conceptualization of 5G. As we understand the features of various mobile networks, it is necessary to recognize 5G as an intelligent landscape capable of spearheading innovations and offering highly personalized services. With a growing number of connected devices, 5G can facilitate scaling up and drive high revenues by analyzing billions of data points.

The Journey from 2G to 5G

Second Generation (2G)

2G, based on GSM, used digital signals while the first-generation mobile network used analog radio signals.

They accomplished various features of 2G by allowing multiple users on a separate channel through multiplexing. During this time, users primarily used cell phones multiple for voice and data.

Key features of 2G include:

  • Up to 64 kbps of data speeds
  • Digital signals over analog
  • Multimedia message services enabled
  • Enhanced quality of voice calls
  • Bandwidth of 30 – 200 kHz

Third Generation (3G)

The central structural architecture for the third generation of mobile networks is based on the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS). The 3G network brought together certain parts of the 2G network with innovative technologies and protocols.

It resulted in a rapid data rate. Leveraging packet switching enabled improvement over the initial technology to permit speeds up to 14 Mbps. Additionally, the utilization of Wide Band Wireless Network enhanced clarity.

Key features of 3G include:

  • Speed of up to 2 Mbps
  • The bandwidth of 15-20 MHz
  • Operating range of 2100 MHz
  • Improved bandwidth
  • Rapid data transfer rates
  • Ability to send/receive large email messages
  • Extended capacities and broadband abilities

International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) were the terms by the International Telecommunication Union for the 3G network. The bandwidth meant that 21.6 Mbps was the maximum speed of HSPA+, theoretically.

Fourth Generation (4G)

The principal difference between 3G and 4G was the rate of data transfer in addition to the technology.  MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) are the fundamental technologies that have made 4G possible.

The primary 4G standards include WiMAX and LTE. While the latter is a significant advancement over 3G speeds, it was technically not 4G.

Despite being widely available, several networks were not up to the requisite rate of 4G. LTE was a fourth-generation long-term evolution, delivering a fast and reliable internet connection.

4G was the preset standard for mobile network connections. 4G LTE is now used to refer to the protocol to be followed to reach specific hand-off preset criteria.

Key features of 4G LTE include:

  • Supports interactive multimedia, voice, video
  • Enhanced capacity and low cost per bit
  • High speeds of up to 20 Mbps or more
  • International and scalable mobile networks
  • Ad hoc and multi-hop networks

Fifth Generation (5G)

5G, the latest evolution, is a network developed for the current digital landscape to connect customers, companies, machines, and devices. It has been built to deliver superior peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, enhanced reliability, substantial network capacity, heightened availability, and consistent user experience.

The fundamental principle here, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), modulates digital signals across numerous channels to decrease interference. While 5G OFDM runs based on similar mobile networking principles as 4G, it uses NR air interface and wider bandwidth technologies, including sub-6 GHz and mmWave.

This improves the OFDM leading to elevated agility and scalability, making 5G more accessible with extensive use cases. Apart from higher speeds and improved mobile broadband services 5G can grow into emerging use cases. This includes mission-critical, high-impact communications and connecting the massive IoT.

Every generation was an evolution over its predecessor. Comparing 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G distinctly shows the variations in the technologies while making 5G incredibly ambitious and futuristic.

  2G 3G 4G 5G
Rolled out in 1993 2001 2009 2018
Based on GSM WCDMA LTE, WiMAX MIMO, mm Waves
Frequency supported Narrowband Broadband Ultra-Broadband Wireless World Wide Web
Access System TDMA, CDMA CDMA CDMA OFDM, BDMA
Type of Switching Circuit Switching Packet Switching Packet Switching Packet Switching
Bandwidth 25 MHz 25 MHz 100 MHz 30 – 300 GHz
Features Multimedia hallmarks, Internet access, SIM Robust security, global roaming High-speed hand-offs, global mobility Remarkably high speeds, low latency
Use-Cases Voice calls, short messages Video conferencing, mobile TV, GPS High-speed applications, mobile TV, wearable devices HD video streaming, remote vehicle control, robots, medical procedures

The difference in network slicing between 4G and 5G networks

By the end of 2025, there are projected to be 3 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide. The massive scale of such coverage is imperative to building the next generation of smart devices.

While network slicing is possible in 4G networks, it is restricted to separate services within a shared infrastructure. It includes Access Point Name Routing, Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN), and Dedicated Core Network.

5G network slicing will enable communication service providers [CSPs] to build virtual data pipelines for individual data type services. It will guarantee the quality of service for every service. From 2021 to 2025, the GDP of the United States is expected to receive over USD 1.5 trillion. Leveraging 5G in the information and communication sector will bring nearly USD 251 billion during the forecast period.

Additionally, 5G network slicing will guarantee data transfer quality for time-bound, high-impact business services. It could have a wide range of applications, including emergency services, connected cars, etc. Eventually, CSPs will be capable of leveraging 5G network slicing to facilitate novel revenue streams.

To get an actual idea of the scale, let us talk numbers. Current 4G LTE networks are supposed to be fast, at about 12.5 MB/s. However, the actual average speeds fall closer to 1.87 MB/s based on bandwidth demands. This means a 3GB movie would take about half an hour to be downloaded. However, with 5G, the same movie can be downloaded in 35 seconds. The promised speeds are 2.5 GB/s, but the average speed is expected to be closer to 87.5 MB/s.

How can STL change your 5G revolution journey?

The shift from 4G to 5G is ongoing and will require time before the hand-off is complete. In the meantime, the interworking of both 4G and 5G will remain for a few years. It makes it crucial to

  • Work on a smooth handover
  • Maintain service continuity without disruption
  • Leverage the agility and speed of the 5G architecture

At STL, we recognize the hurdles associated with evolving communication networks. In conjunction with our expertise and technology, our deep IT and cloud services simplify the process and implement an open, cloud-native architecture. Reach out to us today to leverage the vast potential of network slicing.

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