Why 5G Network Slicing Matters for IoT Applications
However, realistically, it could be years before network operators need to confront such concerns. Not only is current demand for network slicing perceived to be low, but operators may still need to work out business models and pricing for their slices — dedicated network resources won’t come cheap to enterprises, after all. Different network operators also need to pursue interworking agreements for network slices to travel across multiple networks where that need arises. Additionally, as Gartner noted, network slicing may not yet be a top priority for mobile operators as they proceed on their next game-changing architectural evolution.
An Architectural Evolution
While network slicing is possible today, 4G and earlier generation networks are considered “best effort” networks, while 5G’s attributes — lower latency, higher bandwidth, denser network coverage — mean that it can support higher quality and guaranteed services by design. The evolving enterprise and industrial IoT landscape could be a driving factor in the emergence of richer services and applications requiring lower latency, which in turn will encourage more operators to create network slices.
However, as 5G emerges, it will converge with other evolving technology and network architecture concepts, such as NFV, SDN, cloud and edge computing and changes in base station design, giving mobile operators much to consider.
“5G gives operators an opportunity to step back and look at how they want to architect and construct their networks in a more efficient way,” ECI’s Stokes said.
Stokes’ earlier explanation of network slicing as a step beyond VPNs, also makes it sound like a not so distant relation of concepts like network function virtualization (NFV), which allows for virtualization of network resources, and software-defined networking (SDN), which separates control plane functions from data plane functions to enable more centralized, flexible and programmable management of networks.
NFV and SDN are expected to become more integrated into mobile operator and enterprise network architectures, as they help these companies to scale and manage networks in more cost-effective ways. As network slicing evolves, it can be pursued independently of either technology, but also may leverage some of the same principles as both. For example, if a slice is extended all the way through the operator’s core network, NFV and SDN could be used for network resource allocation and control, which also will require operators to enable end-to-end service orchestration across their networks, Stokes said.