42—in addition to being the answer to life, the universe and everything, it’s also how many virtual network slices will be deployed as 5G continues to evolve, according to Henrik Basilier of Ericsson.
In a recent episode of the Conversations with Dez podcast, Basilier joked that he is asked how many network slices will be necessary “which is a hard question to answer. The big challenge I think is in how do you scale it. Honestly, it really boils down to how well do you muster the automation. If we were able to build the network slices in such a way that they work very autonomously, self-heal and self-scale and all that, there’s not a whole lot of limitations on how many there could be. Of course, we’re not there yet. There will be practical limitations.”
Basilier said Ericsson has conducted proofs of concept focused on network slicing with operators, including SK Telecom, NTT Docomo and BT, which prompted the infrastructure vendor to more granularly study the economics of creating logical, virtual networks on a shared physical infrastructure.
“We had an intuitive feeling that network slicing would bring economical benefits in terms of increased revenue, better time to market and customer, eve lower opex or capex and so on. And then we did [an economical study…to see is that true. Do you really get those benefits? Automation is really key to unlock this new value. You cannot really enable these new business opportunities without that.”
At a high-level, the goal of network slicing is to optimize the use of network and spectral resources by providing bespoke data pipes that support a particular service or customer. For instance, an operator could deploy a slice for NB-IoT, a slice for autonomous vehicles, a slice for virtual reality applications and so on.
“We create logical networks that we build for specific use cases, specific customers or industry segments, that can very much be and behave like independent, isolated networks which you can customize, you can optimize them to give the customer the right characteristics for their services,” Basilier said. “You can even manage and operate them independently.”
He said challenges that have to be addressed to realize the vision of network slicing are the virtualization and automation as well as an internal operational and organizational shifts. “What people often forget is you need to transform the operations, the processes, the way you work. If you want to be quick and deliver something to a customer quickly you cannot spend weeks or even months reviewing or doing manual work. It’s a journey and you need to start taking the early steps. There are no shortcuts really.” – RCR Wireless