Users and applications can have highly specific demand for data rates, speeds and capacities. Logistics has different needs than mobility and entertainment media, for example. The network of the future must meet these requirements and have maximum flexibility, to serve everyone optimally.
Network slicing is a means to achieve this. The networking of markets, sectors, industries and society will change radically in the coming years. While the primary focus lies on connecting people today, the future belongs to the full networking of all things – in the Internet of Things. In addition to smartphones and computers, household appliances, vehicles and production equipment will all communicate with one another, simplifying and accelerating operational workflows.
The 5G communications standard forms the foundation for this trend toward the connected society, with all its facets. The difficulty: users and applications can have highly specific demand for data rates, speeds and capacities. Logistics applications have different needs than mobility and entertainment media, for example. The network infrastructure must meet these requirements, however, and have the maximum flexibility to serve everyone optimally. Network slicing is a means to achieve this.
Breakthrough with the fifth generation
The telecommunications sector has committed to creating a new network standard by 2020. This fifth-generation network will differ significantly from its predecessors. Technically speaking, "the network" will no longer exist. Instead, there will be a number of virtual networks, operated in parallel, based on a shared physical infrastructure. The advantage: these networks – called "slices" – can have widely different, and even contradictory, properties. Each slice is designed to meet the specific requirements of a particular use case.
Network on demand
Network slicing enables network operators to make the infrastructure – or parts of it – application-specific and available on demand, as a separate network with specific properties, such as a guaranteed data capacity or latency. Network slicing technology makes it possible to provide slices for a wide range of application scenarios on demand, enabling operators to respond to the versatile 5G applications of the future flexibly and efficiently. Several scenarios in the not-too-distant future show what this might look like in practice.
Looking ahead to the 5G society
Connected cars: cars that communicate with one another will be especially safe – and highly automated. Trips will become much more comfortable. Thanks to special sensors, autonomous cars are capable of identifying dangers early on and exchanging this information with other vehicles in real time. Connecting all transport users in this way will make it possible to avoid accidents and traffic jams.
The constant exchange of information between the machines at a production facility is no longer science fiction. After all, the efficient control of individual machines in industrial manufacturing demands machine-to-machine connections in a highly aggregated, and thus extremely complex, form. This can generate millions or even billions of status messages, which are continuously recorded by sensors, transmitted and analyzed. In turn, this requires network capacity, which can be provided using slices.
The right slice for everyone
Whether a refrigerator is communicating with a supermarket, the bottling machine with the packaging machine or a car with a passing bus – network slicing provides the optimized part of the 5G network for every use case, to guarantee smooth process flows. As a result, everyone will get the right slice in the network of networks.