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Dynamic network slicing with WaveFabric™

This is part of our ‘5G Anyhaul’ blog series providing expert insights and best practices to help you prepare your transport network for 5G and support innovative services that create new revenue opportunities.

Networks are on the verge of a generational transformation driven by the coverage, connectivity, availability, speed and latency demands of 5G.

Mobile operators want to use 5G transformation to generate more revenue from traditional markets and develop revolutionary new services and applications. To prepare, they are investing in new radio access and transport network systems. The aim of these investments is to ensure that all services and applications will operate flawlessly in the 5G architecture and retain customers by delivering the highest quality experiences.

To address the vast number of use cases that 5G networks must handle, operators will need flexible, dynamic network architectures that take advantage of virtualized and physical resources. These architectures will help operators optimize resource use, reduce cost and accelerate time to market for innovative new service offerings. They will also shift the focus of the network model from connectivity to service delivery.

5G network slicing

5G network slicing supports this shift. It enables operators to partition a common network infrastructure into many logical, end-to-end virtual network instances, or slices. Each slice provides network capabilities that match the needs of a group of services or applications with similar requirements.

Virtual network slices are dynamic in nature. They are orchestrated on an end-to-end basis and carved out of the physical network resources required for each use case. The underlying network resources are dynamically assigned to meet specific performance requirements (e.g. capacity, latency, reliability, security) using a seamless and unified network fabric that spans transport domains.

Figure 1: Dynamic service slices supported by seamless and unified smart network fabric

Dynamic service slices

5G network slices use software-defined networking (SDN) principles to support dynamic programmability and control. These carrier SDN capabilities enable operators to offer on-demand services quickly and cost-effectively while unifying service automation and network optimization across the IP, MPLS, Ethernet and optical transport layers. They also adapt the network in real time to continuously meet dynamic performance requirements.

Using WaveFabric to slice optical networks

Nokia WaveFabric facilitates network slicing by creating a flexible, scalable and dynamically reconfigurable optical network for access, metro and core networks. Part of the Nokia Smart Network Fabric (SNF), WaveFabric uses physical and virtualized transport components that can be controlled with SDN principles and APIs. It underpins the transformation towards 5G networks by providing secure and reliable interconnect services that meet the strictest capacity, latency and synchronization distribution requirements.

WaveFabric uses service driven, multi-layer flow steering to deliver efficient and cost-effective transport services that meet the diverse requirements of 5G services. It makes this possible by supporting switching and aggregation at multiple layers. In cases where operators require extreme high capacity or ultra-low latency, WaveFabric supports photonic switching of wavelengths or wavelength bands (Layer 0) between service access points.

With WaveFabric, operators can perform additional aggregation and more granular switching electrically, using OTN switching (Layer 1). In cases where bandwidth efficiency is more critical and latency a bit more relaxed, they can perform switching and aggregation at the packet layer (Layer 2). For Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) applications that support fronthaul or industry 4.0 applications, operators can minimize latency by using TSN switching to deterministically switch and schedule packet flows. Operators can use the different layers independently or collaboratively as needed to support the creation of network slice instances.

Figure 2: WaveFabric provides service-driven, multi-layer flow steering


WaveFabric supports service driven, multi-layer flows with dynamic optical systems that adapt to meet changing service requirements. These systems include:

  • Packet-optical and TSN switches that deterministically direct Ethernet traffic flows with high priority (as in the case of ultra-low-latency fronthaul traffic through a switched packet network).
  • A transport switching engine that provides efficient aggregation and switching of OTN circuits
  • Coherent digital signal processors such as the Nokia Photonic Service Engine (PSE), which provides programmable capacity and performance
  • Reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers (ROADMs)

These optical systems work with other network domains from access to core to enable the dynamic programming and instantiation of network slices. By leveraging a smart network fabric that automates network service provisioning and assurance, WaveFabric enables operators to achieve an end-to-end approach that meet the needs of diverse 5G services, use cases and business models.

Visit our Optical Anyhaul page to learn how we can help you prepare your transport network for 5G and support innovative services that create new revenue opportunities.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #5g, #anyhaul, #networkslicing #optical

Hector Menendez

About Hector Menendez

Hector is a Senior Marketing Manager at Nokia who is focused on end-to-end 4G LTE / LTE-Advanced solutions. In this role, he develops and markets service provider solutions spanning the Radio Access Network (RAN), backhaul, packet core, service delivery environment, network and service management, and professional services. Hector has over 25 years of telecommunications experience and has held a variety of positions including project analyst, events management, market development and solutions marketing at AT&T, Lucent Technologies, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia. He is co-author of several technical articles and papers and is a frequent speaker at events. Hector holds an MBA from the School of Business at Rutgers University, New Jersey.

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