Why 5G Network Slicing Matters for IoT Applications
5G, the next-generation mobile network technology, can offer IoT applications key benefits to leverage, including low latency, more bandwidth, and in the long-term, denser network coverage both indoors and outdoors. Many companies appear aware of what the 5G future holds, as 66% of organizations responding to a 5G use case and adoption survey fielded by research firm Gartner in mid-2018 said they plan to to deploy 5G by next year, with 59% saying they see IoT as the main use case, and the need for operational efficiency as a primary driver.
Another key 5G advantage is network slicing, the ability for mobile network operators to slice their physical networks into portions that can be assigned to individual companies or ecosystems for their dedicated use. Parties whose traffic is contained in a slice can obtain service quality and reliability guarantees, such as a promise that latency of certain industrial IoT application will be no higher than a certain number of milliseconds, for example. The ability to isolate traffic in a slice also translates to enhanced security.
“It’s a way to structure a network to support several classes of services in a guaranteed way on the same network,” said Andreas Hegers, head of business development, partners and marketing at network technology vendor ECI Telecom. “Service providers are not in a position to build their own dedicated network just for ultra low latency, so they need to structure their networks in a certain way with slices to handle those needs.”
Network slicing is just one of a handful of options for providing 5G to enterprises, according to Peter Linder, head of 5G customer engagement at network technology vendor Ericsson. “There are different ways of setting up a 5G architecture for an enterprise,” he said. “It can be built as a private network for that enterprise to operate, it can be operated as a private network service at the customer premise by the service provider, or it can be set up as a dedicated slice of the public wide area network.”
The tough news for companies that want to take advantage of 5G for their IoT architectures is that it is unknown how soon 5G public network connections and coverage — as well as 5G network slices — will be available to many enterprises. The Gartner study suggested that mobile carriers building out 5G networks initially will focus more on the consumer mobile broadband market than investing in the advanced network concepts like edge computing and network slicing necessary to satisfy some enterprise and industrial use cases. That means companies with rapidly evolving IoT architecture needs may need to wait a few years longer to gobble up their own slice of the 5G network.