Features, Insight, Opinion

Why network slicing is a key enabler in 5G adoption

By Azz-Eddine Mansouri, General Manager at Ciena Middle East

Mobile operators are increasingly deploying 5G networks globally and investing in standalone 5G to achieve high bandwidth, increased throughput, and low latency. But these aren’t the only advantages of widespread 5G adoption.

Network slicing—which enables the dynamic creation of highly-customised services—is perhaps the ultimate advantage of 5G. It helps Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Communications Service Providers (CSPs) provide unique digital experiences to their customers based on their applications and functionalities’ requirement with flexibility and low cost allowing CSPs to monetise their 5G network investments.

But getting there is a journey that requires intelligent automation every step of the way – from network planning through to implementation across the RAN, Core, edge/Access, and transport in multi-vendor environments.

The UAE has set an ambitious target to achieve 100% 5G coverage by 2025. In fact, in August 2021, the Dubai Government implemented the region’s first Industrial private 5G slicing through 5G stand-alone technology as part of a move to make Dubai the smartest city in the world (1).

Once fully deployed, it will enable MNOs and CSPs to virtually partition— or ‘slice’—their infrastructure into multiple logical networks, and then apply unique bandwidth, latency, and other attributes on a per-slice basis to create services that meet the performance objectives of different applications and customers.

Automation is key to fulfil network slicing

Network slicing is necessary for optimum 5G infrastructure deployment. Furthermore, automation is needed to efficiently operate 5G networks and fully monetise 5G investments with on-demand, slice-based services.

By using federation to unify inventory data from multiple legacy Operational Support System (OSS) and other sources, operators can create a “single source of truth” for the network. This accurate, real-time view of network resources and the service topology helps automate key operational processes to design and activate dynamic new services like network slicing much more quickly.

The next step is to automate the delivery of services end-to-end across multi-vendor physical and virtual domains that span the RAN, edge, transport, and packet core. The company would be eliminating all legacy OSS, replacing the systems with a cloud-native, best-of-breed digital platform. Open, model-driven orchestration plays a foundational role in the digital platform approach defined by the TMF’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA), as well as within the 3GPP’s 5G network slicing standards.

The final operational step is automating service assurance. CSPs must be able to monitor services across RAN, transport, and core domains to ensure that customers’ service level agreements (SLAs) are being met.

Enhanced profitability and performance

Finally, operators need to be in the driver’s seat on this journey, and they need to be able to complete it at their own pace.

The best part about network slicing is that it is dynamic and can be executed in no time via automation. This is a huge plus point over manual operations. Therefore, pre-defined, static services must be replaced with automated cloud-native solutions that are open and standards-based. Each component must be model-driven to enable operators to programmatically expose their network’s capabilities and become true DSPs.

Flexibility and agility enables an operator to have optimal return, or the fastest time to market. The optimized network offers new revenue opportunities for mobile operators, since users are ready to spend for better performance and security. This has the added advantage of closing the gap between business and the network. Consuming automation software-as-a-service (SaaS), the likes of Blue Planet’s 5G Automation is certainly becoming more attractive as operators look at deploying one or multiple open software components as SaaS.

  1. https://www.mediaoffice.ae/en/news/2021/August/10-08/Digital-DEWA-and-du-launch-the-regions-first-industrial-5G-slicing-through-5G-SA-technology
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