5G Network Slicing: The Way to Multiply the Efficiency of Internet Connectivity

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Dan Omalley

Expert in 5G
5G Network slicing

Since we are living in the age of 5G technology, we have already seen a lot of fundamental transformations in network connectivity. Slicing a network refers to creating slices (like lanes on the highway) to optimize the network for a specific type of data traffic. Today, I will discuss 5G network slicing, from its basic concepts and functions to its applications.

Well, slicing any network allows the creation of multiple virtual networks on a single physical infrastructure. Each slice provides customized capabilities to fulfill the diverse needs of multiple applications. In this way, the whole slicing thing ensures maximum resource utilization efficiency.

5G slicing brings about a paradigm shift in how networks are managed and operated. It transforms the network capable of handling high-speed data demands, ultra-low latency, and massive bandwidth needs of different users – all at the same time!

I am pretty sure reading this whole blog can multiply your knowledge regarding network slicing 5G.

I guess this is one of the queries people search nowadays. Precisely, network slicing is a form of virtual network architecture that fundamentally works the same way in 4G/LTE and 5G networks. It works with the presence of software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) in fixed networks.

Different organizations are deploying SDN and NFV commercially to deliver greater network flexibility. They allow traditional network architectures to be partitioned into virtual elements by linking them through software.

More precisely, 5G network slices allow multiple virtual networks to share a common physical infrastructure through these partitioning processes. After slicing, a single physical network supports different RANs or service types running across a single RAN.

Consequently, these networks can serve the network needs of different applications, services, devices, customers, or operators (1).

How Does Network Slicing Work in 5G?

Slicing a network applies the same principles of virtualization across the entire provider network architecture. These principles include radio access networks and the supporting backhaul, carrier core networks, and associated data center resources.

Through slicing in a 5G network, the communication service providers (CSPs) can deliver meaningful guarantees to customers regarding their services (2). For instance:

A minimal throughput for their connections
Priority delivery of packets from specific types of devices or applications.

So, how does 5G network slicing work?

A 5G network operator can physically segregate traffic on different radio networks. They can slice a single network or combine the capacity of multiple networks and slice the pooled resources. They can support reaching target levels of spectrum efficiency, traffic capacity, and connection density.

Each virtual network (network slice) comprises an independent set of logical network functions. These functions support the requirements of the particular use case. Hence, the term “logical” refers to software. Functions like speed, capacity, connectivity, and coverage are allocated to meet the particular demands of each use case.

However, functional components are also shared across different network slices. Each will be completely isolated to avoid interference with the traffic in another slice. It lessens the risk of introducing and running new services. Also, it supports migration, which is good for new technologies or architectures as they can be launched on isolated slices.

Types of Network Slices in 5G

5G slicing allows each network slice to meet diverse requirements requested by a specific application. In this case, these slices work as isolated end-to-end networks. The uses of 5G network slices are mostly feasible in mobile broadband, entertainment, and IoTs. However, in all these applications, network slices are mainly of three types:

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

eMBB network slicing is a key application in 5G networks to support services with vastly heterogeneous requirements (3, 4). It distributes the network in three ways:

  • Dense collections of users
  • Highly mobile users
  • Users spread over wide areas

Enhanced Mobile Broadband depends on multiple MIMO antennas and the combo of spectra. These spectra include traditional 4G wavelengths and stretching into the millimeter band. Hence, the uses of this slicing are video streaming, gaming, and AR/VR.

Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC)

mMTC provides networks to large numbers of mobile devices with low data rates as they are used in a small area. It can tolerate high latency, a maximum of 10 seconds on a round trip (5). However, the devices using mMTC network slicing have long battery lives. 

Mobile network operators use this type in applications where many devices are interconnected for purposes like smart sensors, connected homes, building smart cities, or monitoring environments (6). For instance, 5G New Radio (NR) can serve networks to 1M devices in each square kilometer.

Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC)

URRLC network slicing offers secure communications with 1ms latencies and low or zero packet loss reliability (2). This action is performed by optimizing devices on MIMO antenna assemblies, manipulating different frequency bands, using methods of packet coding, and handling signals.

The application of URLLC network slices is mostly present in drone control, autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, and remote robotic surgery, as it provides extremely low latency and around 99.99% reliability.

Current Trends or Reasons to Drive Private 5G Network Market

Studies indicate a growing trend across intelligent industries, with three-fourths of manufacturing organizations in Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US aiming to adopt private 5G networks by 2024 (6). Besides, several trends influence the private 5G network market to shape its future. The technological advancements, changing consumer behaviors, and requirements of various industries are primarily driving these trends.

Service Layer

The Service layer interfaces directly with different network business entities like virtual MNOs. Some third-party service providers also use it to share the same physical network. In this layer, each service works as a service instance.

Now, the service instance embeds all network features as Service Level Agreement (SLA) needs. A correct slice creation completes the SLA requirements.

Network Function Layer

The network function layer creates each network slice according to service instance requests coming from the upper layer. It has a set of network functions that embody well-defined behaviors and interfaces.

Multiple network functions are placed over the virtual network infrastructure. They are chained together to create an end-to-end network slice instance. Likewise, this instance reflects the network characteristics requested by the service (7).

Infrastructure Layer

It represents the actual physical network topology upon which every network slice is multiplexed. This network topology consists of a radio access network (RAN), transport network, and core network

However, the infrastructure layer provides the physical network resources to host the several network functions composing each slice. The network domain of available resources is:

  • Infrastructure components like data centers
  • Devices like routers and base stations

Network Slice Controller

You may also call it network orchestrator. It interfaces with the different actions performed by each layer. In this way, it manages each slice request coherently. Technically, without a controller, all those layers may not function properly. 

The controller supervises different tasks for more efficient coordination between the layers. These tasks can be:

  • End-to-end service management 
  • Virtual resources definition
  • Slice life-cycle management. 
Depending on the complexities of these tasks, you can compose a slice controller with multiple orchestrators. They can manage a subset of functions of each layer independently.

5G Core Network Slicing Architecture

The user plane and control plane functions are separated in this network architecture. It distributes the user plane functions close to the edge of network slices to reduce latency. They become independent of the control plane.

Some major 5G core network entities are:.

  • Authentication server function (AUSF)
  • Unstructured data storage network function (UDSF)
  • Network exposure function (NEF)
  • NF repository function (NRF)
  • Policy control function (PCF)
  • Unified data management (UDM)
  • Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF)
  • Communication Service Management Function (CSMF)
The modularity of 5G core helps to split and share the network functions between network slices. It reduces network management complexity.

What is the Process of Network Slicing?

As I said, slicing a network (4G, 5G, or others) is a complex process involving several steps to create a virtual network with full assurance (8). We can divide it into three major steps:

Creating Slices

The first process involves defining the characteristics and requirements of the slice. It is based on the specific needs of the application or service the slicing intends to serve. Some factors like bandwidth, latency, reliability, and security are considered during this phase. Thus, this step is important to set the foundation or base of other processes.

Allocating Resource

After creating a slice and defining its needs, the next step is resource allocation. It assigns network resources like bandwidth, processing power, and storage to the slice. Through allocation, the slice gets the necessary resources to work at an optimal rate and meet the SLAs.

Isolation and Management

The last step in the process is isolation and management. It notes if there are any interferences of operations of different slices. Hence, this assurance is important to maintain the integrity and performance of all those slices. Management of network slices includes the continuous monitoring and adjustment of the slice. In this way, it meets its SLAs and provides optimal service. It may include performance monitoring, fault management, and slice lifecycle management.

What are the Benefits of 5G Network Slicing?

Slicing 5G can transform the way networks operate and the services they provide. Some major benefits are as follows:

Efficient Resource Utilization

Operators can customize their services and allocate resources efficiently following the needs of different applications and users. In this way, the performance of individual virtual networks is never degraded.

Multi-Tenancy

Network slicing supports multiple tenants or service providers within the same physical network infrastructure. It allows for more efficient sharing of resources while maintaining isolation and security between slices.

Enhanced Quality of Service (QoS)

Slicing a network enhances the QoS for various applications. The service providers can allocate specific network resources to each slice through this. So, it becomes possible to guarantee specific QoS parameters like low latency, high bandwidth, and reliability. Indeed, these are essential for public safety communications, augmented reality (AR), traffic management, remote surgery, industrial automation, and connected smart cars.

Cost Efficiency & Revenue Generation

5G slicing can reduce operational costs and increase revenue by introducing new services to meet specific customer needs. Hence, it allows for creation of unique, logical, and virtualized networks over a multi-domain infrastructure. So, it enables new value-added, efficient, and affordable services. It may also drive improved value for enterprise verticals, partners, small and medium businesses, consumer service, and CSPs.

What is the Process of Network Slicing?

As I said, slicing a network (4G, 5G, or others) is a complex process involving several steps to create a virtual network with full assurance (8). We can divide it into three major steps:

Network Slicing Type

Use Cases

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

High-Definition Video Streaming
Widespread IoT Connectivity
Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC)
Smart Grids and Energy Management
Industrial Equipment Monitoring
Connected Agriculture
Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (uRLLC)
Industrial Automation and Control
Remote Surgery and Telemedicine
Autonomous Vehicles

5G Network Slicing for Business

Indeed, slicing any network like 5G can significantly improve the quality of service for common applications like public safety communications and traffic management. It is important where network performance directly affects business outcomes and user experiences. 

Slicing 5G permits network vendors and operators to use a portion of the 5G network spectrum to serve various use cases. It includes mobile networking, smart homes, IoT, and smart energy grids. It also enables new business opportunities in various sectors by customizing suitable virtual networks. 

The automated operation of network slicing allows CSPs to package valuable network capabilities into differentiated, SLA-based services cost-effectively. In this way, those CSPs can gain more profits.

If your business uses applications with needs for very low latency, maximum availability, and high device connectivity, slicing the network will be a good idea.

Security Considerations in 5G Network Slicing

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have warned about the risks of slicing a network. They emphasize the need for careful design, deployment, and maintenance of 5G network slices (9, 10). 

The vulnerability of 5G network slices to attacks is the main concern. It may compromise the security of the entire network. Besides, there has been a major security flaw detected in the 5G core network slicing design. It highlights to take solid security measurements. Hence, the recommendations to avoid these issues are industry-recognized practices to harden the standalone network slices.

Nybsys Inc. for 5G Network Slicing Solutions

We offer a 5G Core Network (5GC) that provides reliable and secure connectivity to the network to ensure solid management and control of 5G devices. Also, we offer affordable 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) deployment. 

Hence, our expert team with years of experience and essential equipment is always ready to slice private 5G networks to meet your customer and consumer needs. Through 5G network slicing, we ensure high-speed data rates, better connectivity, system opacity, and the right resource allocation. 

Get our service today to boost your productivity and generate more business revenues!

Frequently Asked Questions

4G slicing is a one-lane for all traffic, while 5G builds diverse virtual highways. Each lane or slice in 5G fulfills specific app needs, like speedy vehicles in express lanes and reliable trucks on dedicated routes. This deep customization and wider range, from phones to robots, sets 5G slicing apart.
5G’s diverse app demands, from ultra-fast video streams to ultra-reliable surgery robots, need specific network qualities. Slicing creates virtual networks within the main one, each customized for an app’s needs, like speed, latency, or security, ensuring optimal performance for all.
It allows the 5G network segmentation into multiple virtual networks to fulfill the demand for specific apps or services. It offers customization of network resources like bandwidth, latency, and security.

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