Nokia claims to have stolen a march on its rivals by being the first supplier to offer end-to-end slicing network functionality for 4G and 5G New Radio (NR) networks.
One of the key potential benefits of 5G networks is the ability to build scalable and dedicated logical/virtual networks, and recent research from Amdocs revealed that such capability is a top concern for communication service providers (CSPs) and operators. Amdocs surveyed 50 global CSPs and found that 54% were already trialling a 5G network slicing system, while 30% plan to trial one by the end of 2020.
Nokia believes that although full 5G standalone (SA) slicing may be out of reach for many operators for years as they work to upgrade their radio access and core network, its new offering enables them to use their existing network assets and the millions of 5G non-standalone (NSA) devices already in use and is available as a software upgrade.
Nokia’s slicing technology is being developed in collaboration with operators A1 and Telia and will support connectivity from 4G and 5G devices over the sliced network to applications running in private and public clouds. It will be available this summer.
The company said the system provides sliced mobile broadband connectivity from device to radio, transport, core, all the way to applications in private and public networks and the cloud. User and service-aware slicing functionality has been introduced to Nokia radio access products for the first time and is also supported in Nokia transport and core products with control, management and assurance systems. It supports all 4G and 5G devices and works in a multi-supplier environment.
The slicing solution can be deployed via a software upgrade into existing LTE and 5G NSA networks and subsequently 5G SA networks. The slicing continuity between LTE and 5G NR is designed to allow operators to maximise their network coverage for new mobile connectivity services.
Nokia is already trialling live 4G/5G slicing use cases with customers powered by what it says is a unique software-defined network (SDN) radio slice controller as well as a transport slice controller. The trial also includes a Nokia cloud packet core slice orchestrator to support network deployment automation, as well as an SD-WAN software solution providing a managed 4G/5G network slice to private and public cloud services. Nokia assurance systems are used to verify per slice KPIs as a part of the firm’s E2E service orchestration.
Nokia said the technology could open up huge opportunities for operators to introduce some commercial benefits of 5G earlier than was previously thought. It said it could deliver new value and business opportunities for enterprises, as well as for the internet of things (IoT), fixed wireless access, applications and content-related services.
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Nokia also sees the system supporting new mobile end-to-end services with logical connections, security, quality and traffic management with a seamless service continuity across 4G and 5G networks. Private wireless slicing also opens up new network functionalities for different applications, such as surveillance and automation, it added.
Alexander Kuchar, director, technology and future services at A1 Telekom Austria Group, said: “For our business customers, it will be a huge advantage to be able to benefit from dedicated mobile communication services, exclusive capacities, strong data security and transmission with high reliability and low latency by integrating A1’s highly reliable and excellent infrastructure and services offering into their internal processes. Network slicing in 4G and extended in 5G will play a key role in allowing A1 to develop new market segments and revenue streams.”
Jari Collin, chief technology officer at Telia Finland, added: “It has been really exciting to be the first operator to conduct a live test of Nokia’s new network slicing feature. As a 5G frontrunner in business customer pilots and solutions, we know this will be a key functionality that will deliver many of the promises our customers are waiting for. With slicing, we can efficiently use our spectrum to deliver seamless and reliable connectivity and also strengthen our leading IoT position with nationwide deployment of new technologies like LTE-M and NB-IoT.”