Think you need to wait for 5G to do slicing? Think again.
There’s been lots of talk about the lucrative opportunities 5G network slicing will bring: the ability to reach new enterprise customers in more industries with highly tailored service offerings, for example, or to enter into revenue-generating B2B2X partnerships. But for many communications service providers (CSPs), slicing is part of their long-term plans, something to be tackled only once they have a full standalone 5G network. Here’s some news: you don’t have to wait.
Network slicing standards are largely predicated on implemention within a 5G standalone (SA) network. If you’re like many other CSPs, a full 5G SA build may still be a long way out. First will come 5G non-standalone (NSA), with 5G pieces added on top of your existing 4G infrastructure. That means there’s a potential ecosystem of billions of 4G devices and related use cases that slicing could support with innovative services today: from the Internet of Things and fixed-wireless access to public safety applications, event infrastructure, transportation and more.
At Nokia, we’ve been determined to help CSPs access the slicing opportunity sooner, including those running 4G/5G NSA or even 4G-only networks. In February 2020, we launched an upgrade to our radio controllers that allows our customers to do just that. The solution offers sliced mobile broadband connectivity whether a device is served by 4G or 5G. In October, we profiled the RAN, transport and core controllers that support the underlying connectivity, all the way to applications on public and private cloud networks.
Managing slices in 4G and hybrid networks
The award-winning Nokia Digital Operations Center complements these network-based capabilities, giving CSPs an entirely new way of running their businesses by simplifying the way they manage the “round trip” slice and digital service lifecycle in multi-vendor, multi-domain and multi-technology environments. It also supports stringent service-level agreements tuned to the needs of new vertical markets, even as network complexity increases.
By providing the orchestration layer between network controllers and commercial services, the Digital Operations Center connects the network to the business, automatically and dynamically interpreting business intent — what the customer needs — into the required configurations and settings. This streamlines slice design, deployment, optimization and assurance from end to end, enabling slice-based services to be created and deployed within minutes or hours instead of days.
An on-ramp to 5G slicing
The ability to slice 4G and hybrid networks isn’t theoretical: we’ve proven it in our own labs, in customers’s test labs, and in real-world deployments. While building its 5G network, A1 Austria has used our technology to trial Nokia’s network slicing offering to key enterprise customers such as train operator ÖBB and the Vienna International Airport. The slices essentially give these customers private networks tailored to their unique specifications without requiring them to build and maintain their own infrastructure.
The versatility and breadth of our Digital Operations Center has garnered industry attention over the course of 2020. We received FutureNet World’s Orchestration Solution Award in September for the most innovative automated service orchestration solution, and just last week, the Digital Operations Center was selected for a Fierce Innovation Award in the BSS/OSS category.
While full 5G SA networks will open up even more slicing opportunities, we think of 4G/5G slicing orchestrated by the cloud-native Digital Operations Center as a practical on-ramp to that future. CSPs who start to experiment with slicing for their 4G customers today will be well positioned to capitalize on the full potential of standalone 5G as it unfolds.