5G Network Slicing Explained

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Network slicing has become more important in the telecommunications industry with the advent of the 5G network slicing technology. This technology allows multiple separate networks to be joined together to function as one fast and efficient 5G network.

While relatively new, it has emerged as one of 5G’s most touted features because it offers enterprises (and consumers) a customized level of quality of service (QoS). In addition, enterprises can leverage 5G network slicing to achieve faster processing speeds, increased throughput, and lower latency in data transfer and storage.

What is Network Slicing?

Network slicing is the process of joining together two separate networks to work as one to get a larger bandwidth and throughput. The idea offers a new way of looking at networks. Instead of a single network, there are multiple slices (or sub-networks) that each has its own unique capabilities and use cases.

This makes it possible to create personalized networks, allowing companies to combine network slices, so they can provide better performance for their customers. It also allows them to create new services that wouldn’t have been possible with just one network slice.

But in its most basic form, it’s just a way to combine two different networks into one larger one. For example, suppose you have a business with multiple locations connected to their independent Wi-Fi access point (AP). In that case, you can use network slicing to connect those APs so they can share information seamlessly with each other.

Also read: Best 5G Network Providers for Business 2022

What is 5G Network Slicing?

5G network slicing involves dynamically merging together slices of bandwidth. These slices are created via 5G network slicing, which is a capability for slicing bandwidths to provide different service levels to various applications, devices, and users.

For example, you could have network slices of bandwidth reserved for latency-sensitive applications such as autonomous vehicles and another slice of bandwidth reserved for applications such as video streaming.

With 5G network slicing, you can merge these slices dynamically, based on real-time conditions and user demand, by combining them to provide users with a more consistent 5G service end-to-end. This means there’s no need to reserve or over-provision bandwidth, resulting in a more efficient use of network resources and increased business agility.

In addition, 5G network slicing can help 5G networks achieve higher data rates, better reliability, broader coverage, and more capacity. All of these benefits make 5G a potent tool for enterprises.

How Does Network Slicing Work?

Network slicing allows operators to create and combine multiple virtual slices of their infrastructure through which specific types of traffic flow to address differences in how applications run on a network. The main concept behind network slicing is that networks are as heterogeneous as the applications and services running on them.

This means that each service may require different performance characteristics, including predictable latency, high data throughput, or low-power consumption. Each of these parameters is important for service and can’t be sacrificed in favor of another.

For example, voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls need to be transmitted quickly with minimal delay but don’t need to transfer large amounts of data. Comparatively, video streaming services require high bandwidth and minimal latency, so videos stream smoothly to users.

These two applications are entirely different from one another and thus have different requirements for how they run on a network. With network slicing, a single physical infrastructure can provide many virtual slices tailored to particular application needs.

If a slice doesn’t meet its specified requirements, it can easily be replaced by another without affecting other parts of the network. As such, an operator can control every aspect of their environment, from the QoS to pricing and capacity.

Also read: From Co-existence to Convergence, the Union of 5G & Wi-Fi

How is 5G Network Slicing Done?

5G network slicing is based on software-defined networking (SDN), which refers to software capable of performing tasks usually performed by specialized hardware devices. As 5G networks demand higher connection speeds and more connections per device and devices without fixed locations, network management will become increasingly complex, necessitating automated solutions.

In 5G network slicing, virtualized 5G radio access networks are created, combining many separate cells into one unified network. This allows operators to expand their coverage areas while using fewer physical cell sites than would be required for a single-cell approach, reducing both capital costs and operating expenses for mobile operators.

An operator creates virtualized 5G radio access networks (RANs) that integrate several individual cells into one logical entity. By combining multiple small cells into one large cell, 5G network slicing can achieve higher throughputs with lower latency than is possible with a single small cell.

Benefits of Network Slicing

Enterprises are looking to 5G network slicing for a number of reasons. Because users can send data in both directions simultaneously over the same 5G line, speeds can be faster.

And, by separating the transmission from the reception with 5G network slicing, users can also seamlessly switch frequencies while sending data, and they won’t experience any buffering or lag when switching between devices.

5G network slicing also allows users to customize their 5G connection based on their specific needs. For example, if you have several connected devices that require high bandwidth but little latency, you can prioritize your connection to accommodate them.

In addition, 5G network slicing allows enterprises to transfer large amounts of data quickly without sacrificing quality—something that’s particularly useful in industries like healthcare, where patient information must be sent quickly and accurately.

Drawbacks of Network Slicing

As with any new technology, there are several risks associated with 5G network slicing that could lead to data loss or unauthorized access to systems.

There’s no reason to believe 5G network slicing will be less secure than other technologies—given its youth, 5G network slicing is expected to have fewer vulnerabilities than older technologies. However, due to its nature (5G network slicing is designed for high-speed transfers), hackers may find it more tempting than other technologies.

Opportunities in 5G Network Slicing

5G represents a new paradigm for mobile communications. It will support new applications that use massive data flows, ultra-reliable low latency communications, or very large numbers of simultaneously connected devices.

5G will also enable completely new applications that are impossible with today’s technology, such as immersive telemedicine or Industry 4.0. Additionally, 5G means introducing heterogeneity into cellular networks for load balancing and scaling to an almost infinite number of connected devices efficiently.

This heterogeneity can be achieved by adding  and stitching together different types of radio access technologies (RAT) at various layers in 5G networks to form one seamless RAN. In other words, 5G network slicing enables heterogeneous deployment across all layers of a 5G system.

Read next: Understanding Open RAN in the Age of 5G

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an experienced B2B technology and finance writer and award-winning public speaker. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook, and has written for various publications, including eWEEK, Enterprise Networking Planet, Tech Republic, eSecurity Planet, CIO Insight, Enterprise Storage Forum, IT Business Edge, Webopedia, Software Pundit, and Geekflare.

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