5G, along with network slicing, promises to accelerate the digital transformation of the enterprises. Even as the 5G deployment continues to grow, several challenges still need to be addressed.
In a recent event, the challenges related to 5G and network slicing and how they can be addressed were highlighted.
5G is recognized as an important connectivity technology, and even though it is much better than previous standards, it is not enough to satisfy the needs for the digital transformation of the industries. The enterprises need to improve efficiency and reduce cost to realize the value in the process of digital transformation. While telcos need to develop use cases that target the pain points of different industries.
5G enabled engines, like Artificial Intelligence and cloud technology, will play a key role in the digital transformation of the industries.
Adopting Network Slicing
Network slicing, a key pillar of 5G, allows service providers to slice a physical network into multiple virtual networks with each `slice’ being an independent virtualized end-to-end network. The network slicing opens up several new opportunities for the service providers, especially so in the enterprise and industrial applications space. The global network slicing market will tough $5.8 billion by 2025, according to ResearchandMarkets.com report.
Network slicing will be a prerequisite in the 5G era of billions of devices and things connected all the time. Nearly 20.8 billion devices will be connected by 2020
, and this concept will be required to ensure that they run and function without a glitch. It enables the telcos to run each network slice as per specific instructions. The concept of network slicing allows telcos to scale and launch newer services faster in keeping with the evolving market dynamics.
The foundation for network slicing is being laid in China right now with a focus on 5G Standalone (SA). Even so, the concept of network slicing is not without challenges.
"One of the challenges is the industries don’t understand the concept of network slicing because they don’t have communications expertise. Similarly, the carriers have difficulty in understanding the varied needs of different industries. So this means that there needs to be a common language to facilitate the discussion of requirements. Secondly, it is not like the more slices, the merrier. You need to achieve a balance. So the challenges faced by 5G slicing is in scaling and how to maintain 5G slicing," explains Li Shan, Director of Research Center for Radio Management of China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
With the aim of addressing these concerns, China Academy of Information and Communications Technology has developed a Maslow model for the industry’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirement. In this model, the first and the most crucial aspect is the availability of services that can be categorized over several factors, including bandwidth, latency, packet loss, and availability.
"On the other hand, some industries are highly regulated, so they would want an isolated or separate network and may require authentication and encryption. And there’s also the requirement for control. For example, for the bandwidth and the latency, the enterprises would want to see and evaluate those metrics," explains Li while speaking at the event.
Li mentioned that they have also come up with a separate 5G slicing SLA dashboard, which can be used as a reference tool by enterprises from different industry verticals to define their requirements. For instance, bandwidth, latency and reliability can be the key metrics for service availability. The fundamental purpose of such a tool is that it helps the industries define and customize their particular needs and requirements. This dashboard has been used to analyze the needs of healthcare, manufacturing, and the electrical power industry.
The network slicing is likely to start scaling in the coming year. To make this a success, Li recommends concerted support from various industries to develop 5G applications. Further extensive participation of top players from different verticals will accelerate the development and deployment of 5G network slicing. The industry and the service providers need to work together to develop innovative use cases that not only help address their pain points but also enable them to meet their business objectives.
In this context, the Maslow-inspired model is the first crucial step in helping the enterprises and service providers to leverage the vast potential of 5G technology.