5G Network Slicing: The Pros & Cons

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. Significance of Network Slicing
  2. Advantages of 5G Network Slicing
  3. Major Drawbacks of 5G Network Slicing

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

What is the Significance of Network Slicing?

While 5G is the next step in the evolution of mobile networks, it stands out from being just another radio access network model because of network slicing. Network slicing operates by applying virtualization principles to mobile networks. While this could prove to be the next disruption in the industrial revolution 4.0, debates over the urgency and significance of network slicing are ongoing. Before we deep dive into a list of the pros and cons, let us go over a basic introduction.

The simplest possible way to describe network slicing is horizontal virtualization with an approach centered around combining the following:

  • The 5G New Radio (NR) network
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology
  • Network functions virtualization (NFV) architecture

These create various self-sufficient network slices facilitating communications service providers (CSPs) to segregate users, machines, and purposes that demand a distinct quality of service (QoS). The applications of these slices can extend to offering mobile network administrators’ individual virtual infrastructure, which could go a long way in enhancing MVNO-based services.

Horizontal slicing provides cross-application and cross-service division of networks. Individual horizontal slices have their respective virtual resources detached from those employed for different slices.

This makes horizontal network slicing different from contemporary network division, also known as vertical slicing. The resources are not segmented as much in these cases and are allocated based on the use case.

What are the Glaring Advantages of 5G Network Slicing?

  • The usage of NFV and SDN to divide the physical networks into various virtual networks allows diverse consumer needs to be met.
  • Multiple service-based and specific use case-based customer requirements can be provided through an individual network.
  • Network slicing allows maximized utilization of resources by allocating an optimal per-network slice, promoting the efficient utilization of resources. For instance, communication service providers can configure low latency into one network slice while configuring high throughput into another network slice.
  • Network slicing will significantly reduce operating expenditure (OPEX) and capital expenditure (CAPEX).
  • Network slicing will cause standardization of protocols. Streamlined operations will tremendously improve working efficiency.
  • Network slicing will enable faster time-to-market for the availability and functionality of the 5G network services.
  • The various pain points of “DiffServ,” the most popular QoS solution, can be overcome through network slicing. For instance, DiffServ cannot distinguish identical traffic types such as VoIP arising from diverse tenants. Additionally, “DiffServ” does not have the ability to confine multiple traffic types.

What are the Major Drawbacks of 5G Network Slicing?

While network slicing holds tremendous potential for 5G networks, it has its fair share of hurdles. While there is agreement on the pivotal role of network slicing in 5G, the procedure for its implementation needs to be figured out.

  • As 5G networks offer wireless connectivity, it will be essential to re-design Radio Access Networks (RANs) for network slicing. Network slicing is typically applied in the central network region of the 5G network and can be executed in the RAN segment by combining resources. However, for 5G network slicing to be viable, multiple macrocells and small cells need to work in unison to satisfy the requirements of various network slices.
  • Understanding how best to enable point-to-point connectivity between mechanical controllers and radio devices by combining network slicing with NFV and SDN needs to be established.
  • While the solitary nature of the deployed technology may restrict interference from network slices, achieving point-to-point connectivity is a challenge with an excess of network slices.
  • Ensuring network slicing can work with emerging 5G technologies requires extensive interoperability as networks gradually transition to 5G. Communication service providers and network operators must test the interoperability extensively to ensure network slicing works as expected in 5G networks.
  • Industry experts need to agree on the best route for implementation, which will take some time.
  • While 5G network slicing leverages an intelligent use of standard radio resources, it needs advanced techniques to guarantee the isolation of these radio resources.

End Note

While the progressive handover from 4G to 5G has started, it will require time to complete the process. It is necessary to ensure network slicing can work with emerging 5G technologies as the interworking of both 4G and 5G mobile networks will be in place for a while. This makes it vital to

  • Minimize business disruption
  • Extensively test interoperability
  • Maintain service continuity
  • Build a flexible framework that supports 5G architecture

At STL, we understand the difficulties in meeting evolving consumer needs through communication networks. Our extensive IT and cloud services, combined with our expertise and technology, streamline the approach and deploy an open, cloud-native architecture. Read more on how network slicing can help in successfully monetizing 5G investments.

Reach out to us today to leverage the vast potential of network slicing.


What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data. This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities.

There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major usescases of optical fibre cables include intenet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

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