Seize control of 5G network slicing in the radio access network
5G network slicing shatters the ‘one size fits all’ model of service quality
There’s good reason why network slicing is one of 5G’s most hyped capabilities. The technology allows Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to generate valuable revenue by creating multiple logical networks dedicated to different purposes.
5G-era networks are complex. They run on virtualized and containerized infrastructure with 100-fold more actions within the network than in previous generations. The power of network slicing is that it provides CSPs with an efficient way to package these valuable network capabilities into differentiated, SLA-based services in a cost-effective way that can drive profitable growth.
For instance, a utility company might want a slice to communicate securely throughout a national smart meter network over the next decade. In contrast, an events company might want to provide extra capacity for the duration of a weekend music festival.
However, should performance of a slice fall short of the levels guaranteed by the CSP, the promised revenue is put at risk. Assuring the end-to-end performance of network slices is a complex task only possible with advanced network automation.
Automated slicing controllers are critical elements in all three 5G network domains – core, transport and Radio Access Network (RAN) – but it’s the RAN slicing controller that largely determines whether the user experience matches the agreed Quality of Service (QoS) in terms of throughput, latency, mobility and reliability.
What makes the RAN slicing controller such a big deal?
The Nokia RAN slicing controller is a 3GPP function called the RAN NSSMF (Network Slice Subnet Management Function). That’s a mouthful, so let’s call it the RAN slicing controller.
The new Nokia RAN slicing controller software automates the entire lifecycle of network slices, including management, monitoring, assurance and optimization.
Slice life cycle management: The RAN slice controller supports the creation, activation, re-configuration and deactivation of network slices based on triggers from the end-to-end network slice orchestrator. Through its portal or a digital operations center, the CSP sets the performance parameters for a slice. The RAN slicing controller then configures the slice by using these instructions to set the gNB (the 5G base station) parameters for the required cells.
Should the requirements change while the slice is live, the CSP simply updates the portal and the RAN slicing controller automatically reconfigures the gNBs. When the need for the slice ends, the RAN slicing controller deactivates it.
Monitoring: The RAN slicing controller monitors the slice and reports back to the CSP with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure the service meets the agreed QoS.
Assurance: The RAN slicing controller works to maintain the SLA set by the CSP for the slice. It takes proactive action based on preset thresholds and ensures that the guaranteed SLA (throughput, latency, etc) is not impacted.
Optimization: The RAN slicing controller optimizes the RAN resources across the slices based on network demand to maintain the best possible performance. Slice controller actions are triggered based on network KPIs to ensure that computing resources are allocated based on the network load.
Nokia’s RAN slicing controller: scalable, flexible, adaptable
Nokia’s 3GPP-compliant RAN slicing controller is a cloud-native microservice. It’s easily scalable and can run on any cloud platform. It’s also vendor agnostic and interfaces with 3rd party software both on the northbound and southbound interfaces. The Nokia RAN slicing controller supports both physical and virtual radio networks including O-RAN. Network slicing will be one of the biggest game-changers brought by 5G. But it’s the RAN slicing controller function that ultimately turns slicing from a theoretical benefit into a practical reality.
Nokia’s RAN NSSMF is available today for customer trials and we’ll be demonstrating the new capabilities in a series of customer projects over the coming months.