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Why end-to-end network slicing will be important for 5G
Date: 2017-07-05    Source: ITU   

If you have been following developments in telecommunications in the last year or so you have no doubt heard the term "slicing" as it pertains to future 5G networks. This short article will hopefully give you a high-level view of what "slicing" is, why it's important for 5G systems, and some indication of the work accomplished by the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) on this important new technology.

The need for slicing future network systems can perhaps best be understood by looking at city transportation systems. In a city, we don’t provide a single transportation mechanism. Instead, the infrastructure of the city is divided - sliced, if you will - into areas for cars, buses, subways, etc.

Some of the infrastructure is dedicated to a par­ticular form of transportation (eg. trains), while other infrastructure can share different kinds of transportation (eg. roads are shared by cars as well as buses, which may have priority lanes).

This analogy mirrors nicely what we plan to do with 5G. Essentially, we intend to take the infra­structure resources from the spectrum, antennas and all of the backend network and equipment and use it to create multiple sub-networks with different properties.

Each sub-network slices the resources from the physical network, end to end, to create its own independent, no-compromise network for its preferred applications.

"Much of the challenge with 5G will be providing the proper degree of orchestration that ensures harmonious end-to-end operation." - Peter Ashwood-Smith, 5G Network Research Director, Huawei.

Next-generation network challenges

In today's Internet-of-Things (IoT) era, we are creating new types of machines, both big and small, at an amazing rate. Connecting these machines offers great opportunity, but brings with it a host of challenges.

Today's 3G/4G/LTE networks do a wonderful job connecting people, but they pose a number of problems when used to connect machines. This is because the 3G/4G/LTE networks were designed as a set of compromises.

For example, the 4G/LTE networks do not give the lowest possible delay because to do so would have an adverse effect on the band­width they could provide. Likewise, the careful scheduling of individual users through multiple message exchanges creates higher throughput and more fair access, however, it uses consid­erable battery resources in the handsets to do so. Some of the challenges for next-generation applications and the current situation with 4G are depicted in the figure.

(Author: Peter Ashwood-Smith, ITU-TIMT-2020 Focus Group Chair and 5G Network Research Director, Huawei)

 
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