Automation of portion control has been mastered
Spanish mobile operator group Telefónica, equipment maker Ericsson and intrusive advert giant Google claim they have automated the process of end to end network slicing needed for the mass provision of a 5G standalone (SA) network, including lifecycle support and radio resource portioning. The successful lab test showed how they can to provision a network slice from the core to the radio access network (RAN) in 35 minutes. These complex service configurations call for full automation in order to be manageable and guarantee the right levels of service from the network slice, said SDX Central.
Is it ready yet?
The test used Ericsson’s Dynamic Radio Resource Partitioning technology that is part of the 5G RAN Slicing software it launched in early 2021. The technology dynamically allocates spectrum resources in a millisecond to support different service requirements across network slices. It was first commercially tried and tested earlier this year by the Malaysian government’s Digital Nasional Berhad division. The proof-of-concept also used Google’s Android smartphone operating system, smartphone concepts from Google, Samsung, TCL and Xiaomi – and chipsets from MediaTek, Qualcomm and Samsung. The exercise used those commercial products to demonstrate the ability to select the traffic sent to the different network slices. The companies said they will share the test results with industry trade group GSMA and the broader supply chain to help with the standardisation of network slicing development and adoption.
Are we there yet? No. Is network slicing oven ready? Perhaps. ABI Research in late 2018 predicted 5G network slicing would generate “$66 billion in value for enterprise verticals including manufacturing, logistics, and transportation by 2026.” Like most analyst reports, that looks optimistic. The analyst firm more recently admitted that mobile operators need to pay “attention to 5G slice-as-a-service and other value-add services which are critical to monetisation.” Is that the sound of an analyst back pedalling? GlobalData Principal Analyst Tammy Parker was more specific: network slicing can support specific use cases such as cloud gaming, said Parker. Progress has been slow.
Nokia released multi-vendor network slicing software in 2020 that allows network operators to spin up and scale down virtual slices of their respective networks. This was tried by operators in Asia. In a joint trial in 2021 Deutsche Telekom Ericsson and Samsung used Ericsson’s 5G SA core and a Samsung smartphone to support a mobile gaming service. Vodafone exhibited mobile gaming on 5G as long ago as 2019.
T-Mobile US recently launched commercial voice traffic running over its 5G SA RAN core, with the service allowing compatible devices to remain connected to the carrier’s 5G network for both voice and data sessions. Eventually it will allow it to include voice services as part of its network slicing abilities.
In its latest work, however, Telefónica only hinted at work toward eventual commercialisation. “We look forward to continued collaboration with our partners and the rest of the industry to make slicing a commercial success for all,” said Cayetano Carbajo, Telefónica’s director of core and transport.