The telecom industry has been hyping 5G network slicing for several years now, asserting that carriers will be able to make money by selling “slices” of their networks to different enterprises for their exclusive use. Effectively, creating wireless virtual private networks.
Network slicing is a very complicated technology that must work across a 5G SA core, RAN, edge and transport networks. There are no standards for network slicing, which is defined in several 3GPP Technical Specifications.
From 3GPP TS 28.530:
Network slicing is a paradigm where logical networks/partitions are created, with appropriate isolation, resources and optimized topology to serve a purpose or service category (e.g. use case/traffic category, or for MNO internal reasons) or customers (logical system created “on demand”).
- network slice: Defined in 3GPP TS 23.501 v1.4.0
- network slice instance: Defined in 3GPP TS 23.501 V1.4.0
- network slice subnet: a representation of the management aspects of a set of Managed Functions and the required resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources).
- network slice subnet instance: an instance of Network Slice Subnet representing the management aspects of a set of Managed Function instances and the used resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources).
- Service Level Specification: a set of service level requirements associated with a Service Level Agreement to be satisfied by a network slice instance.
Yet despite all the pomp and circumstance, there are few if any instances of commercially available 5G SA core networks that support network slicing. Perhaps that’s because with the lack of standards there won’t be any interoperability or roaming from one 5G SA core network to another.
Meanwhile, private 5G is coming on strong, especially with Amazon’s announcement which we covered in this post:
Benefits of Private 5G Networks:
A private 5G network, also known as a local or non-public 5G network, is a local area network that provides dedicated bandwidth using 5G technology. Although the telecommunication industry is currently building the needed infrastructure and network gear to support 5G, there has not yet been a widespread rollout.
“5G deployment is still in its infancy, and we use movement from standardization bodies implementing models for Industry 4.0 or smart buildings as an indicator that the 5G private network is a foundational component for their future,” says Jon Abbott, EMEA technology director of Vertiv.
Many companies are working with service providers to use these developing networks, but some prefer the advantages that come with building their own private 5G systems.
A large component in the growth of private 5G networks is the release of an unlicensed spectrum for industry verticals. It gives businesses the option to deploy a private 5G network without having to work with an operator.
Because a private network can be designed for protection and human safety, sensor control, and security, the improved bandwidth is ideal for various use cases in multiple industries.
Benefits of a private network include:
- Reducing the company’s dependence on providers, thereby allowing full control over operating methods
- Separate data processing and storage
- Security policies can be designed and controlled within the organization, allowing companies to customize the network the way they want
- The overall high speeds, low latency, and application support of 5G
Risks of 5G:
Although there are many benefits, faster network do still come with risks. For example, the improved speed and latency can inadvertently create new avenues for cyber-criminals. As more systems go wireless, the more sources cyber criminals can attempt to hack. Furthermore, the growing adoption of 5G is increasing alongside the use of 5G-enabled devices. Because many of these devices are interconnected to various systems through the Internet of Things, the probability of a data leak increases.
Businesses need to take the proper steps to secure their systems in order to ward off cyber criminals as they attempt to take advantage of the fast speeds of 5G. When the implementation of 5G begins, organizations must have security systems, such as firewalls, VPNs, malware software, intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS), in place.
From a Dell’Oro Group report on Private Wireless Networks:
Private Wireless RAN and Core network Configurations:
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to private wireless. We are likely looking at hundreds of deployment options available when we consider all the possible RAN, Core, and MEC technology, architectures, business, and spectrum models. At a high level, there are two main private wireless deployment configurations, Shared (between public and private) and Not Shared:
- The shared configuration, also known as Public Network Integrated-NPN (PNI-NPN), shares resources between the private and public networks.
- Not shared, also known as Standalone NPN (SNPN), reflects dedicated on-premises RAN and core resources. No network functions are shared with the Public Land Mobile Network (PLMN).
Not surprisingly, there will be a plethora of deployment options to address the RAN domain. In addition to the shared vs. standalone configuration and LTE vs. 5G NR, private wireless RAN systems can be divided into two high-level RAN configurations: Wide-Area and Local-Area.
Dell’Oro Group continues to believe that it will take some time to realize the full vision with private wireless. Setting aside the more mature public safety market, we expect that some of these more nascent local private opportunities to support both Broadband and Critical IoT will follow Amara’s Law, meaning that there will likely be a disconnect between reality and vision both over the near and the long term.