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Cisco and Vodafone have teamed up at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona to demonstrate new network slicing techniques via segment routing, which is expected to be a vital component of mobile network operators’ (MNOs’) future 5G mobile networks.
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With network traffic from wireless and mobile devices expected to account for more than 60% of total internet protocol (IP) traffic, and the number of devices in operation expected to exceed the worldwide human population by three times by 2021 – according to Cisco’s most Visual Networking Index Forecast – growth in demand for bandwidth and capacity will far outpace the demands made on networks today.
Network slicing via segment routing will come into play as a technique to help lower and control latency for high-bandwidth applications – such as video, gaming, or augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) – running over mobile networks, ultimately improving the overall service experience for customers, hence Vodafone’s interest.
The operator has already started to use segment routing technology to simplify its transport network operations by automating core functions to tackle congestion issues on its present-day 4G networks.
“Vodafone is well advanced in its network transformation journey,” said Yvette Kanouff, senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s service provider business.
“Segment routing marks another example of how Vodafone is transforming its network operations with more software and cloud-powered technology to deliver innovative services faster and more efficiently.
“Demonstrating this technology in front of live audiences here this week gives us the chance to share the wow factor of how together, we are changing the face of networking.”
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Essentially, segment routing is an IP traffic routing protocol that enables the transport layer to differentiate how it delivers different applications, removing or bypassing legacy protocols, to make network operations easier.
By implementing software defined networking (SDN) technology within the transport network, network managers can create a low-latency “slice” (a virtual route across the transport layer) that ensures chosen types of traffic – such as video on consumer networks, but also perhaps automated vehicle data or critical healthcare applications – will always have an unobstructed journey with the shortest end-to-end latency.
Cisco said segment routing is also supposed to bring improvements for network resilience, using self-healing techniques to intuitively restore connectivity in less than 50 milliseconds if an issue occurs by rerouting traffic automatically. That will provide better network up-time and allow for faster upgrades.