Samsung and KDDI complete SLA network slicing field trial on 5G SA network in Japan

Samsung Electronics and KDDI announced the successful demonstration of Service Level Agreements (SLA) assurance network slicing in a field trial conducted in Tokyo, Japan. For the first time in the industry, the companies proved their capabilities to generate multiple network slices using a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) on a live commercial 5G Standalone (SA) network. The RIC, provided by Samsung in this field trial, is a software-based component of the Open RAN architecture that optimizes the radio resources of the RAN to improve the overall network quality.

Network slicing (which requires a 5G SA core network) enables multiple virtual networks to be created within a single physical network infrastructure, where each slice is dedicated for a specific application or service — serving different purposes. For instance, 5G SA network operators can create a low latency slice for automated vehicles, an IoT slice for smart factories and a high bandwidth slice for live video streaming — all within the same network. This means that a single 5G SA network can support a broad mix of use cases simultaneously, accelerating the delivery of new services and meeting the tailored demands of various enterprises and consumers.

“Network slicing will help us activate a wide range of services that require high performance and low latency, benefitting both consumers and businesses,” said Toshikazu Yokai, Managing Executive Officer, General Manager of Mobile Network Technical Development Division at KDDI. “Working with Samsung, we continue to deliver the most innovative technologies to enhance customer experiences.”

Through this field trial conducted in Q4 of 2022, KDDI and Samsung proved their capabilities of SLA assurance to generate multiple network slices that meet SLA requirements, guaranteeing specific performance parameters — such as low latency and high throughput — for each application. Samsung also proved the technical feasibility of multiple user equipment (UE)-based network slices with quality assurance using the RIC, which performs advanced control of RAN as defined by the O-RAN Alliance.

“Network slicing will open up countless opportunities, by allowing KDDI to offer tailor-made, high-performance connectivity, along with new capabilities and services, to its customers,” Junehee Lee, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Sales & Marketing, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “This demonstration is another meaningful step forward in our efforts to advance technological innovation and enrich network services. We’re excited to have accomplished this together with KDDI and look forward to continued collaboration.”

For more than a decade, the two companies have been working together, hitting major 5G networks milestones that include: KDDI’s selection of Samsung as a 5G network solutions provider, end-to-end 5G network slicing demonstration in the lab, 5G network rollout on 700MHz and the deployment of 5G vRAN on KDDI’s commercial network.

Samsung has pioneered the successful delivery of 5G end-to-end solutions including chipsets, radios and core. Through ongoing research and development, Samsung drives the industry to advance 5G networks with its market-leading product portfolio from virtualized RAN and Core to private network solutions and AI-powered automation tools. The company is currently providing network solutions to mobile operators that deliver connectivity to hundreds of millions of users around the world.


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One thought on “Samsung and KDDI complete SLA network slicing field trial on 5G SA network in Japan

  1. KDDI has selected Samsung to provide the kit for its 5G standalone core network, and its pretty excited about the potential for furthering the 5G experience in Japan.

    The news will hardly raise any eyebrows; the South Korean operator and vendor have been working together for years. But the announcement is noteworthy because, amongst other things, it demonstrates the growing desire amongst Japanese players to push the 5G ecosystem on.

    According to Samsung, its cloud-native, 5G SA core solution will afford KDDI the usual benefits we are used to hearing in connection with 5G: lower latency and high reliability, as well as 5G-enhanced capabilities. It supports both 4G and 5G networks, thereby offering seamless migration from one to the other, which is important at this stage in proceedings, and comes with a range of features, such as an overload control feature designed to counteract sudden traffic spikes.

    The vendor also highlighted the fact that Samsung and KDDI are operating multiple cores in various locations for the sake of redundancy. Each core is capable of picking up loads should one active core become unavailable due to a traffic burst or a natural disaster.

    “With Samsung’s 5G SA Core, we will offer unprecedented speed, instantaneous connectivity and high reliability which could bring numerous new experience value for consumers and enterprises,” said Toshikazu Yokai, Managing Executive Officer, General Manager of Mobile Network Technical Development Division at KDDI. “We look forward to continue advancing 5G networks to stay ahead of our customers’ needs.”

    What he didn’t say, but probably didn’t need to, was that by advancing its 5G capabilities, KDDI also hopes to keep itself in a competitive position with its market rivals.

    It sits squarely in the middle of the market in terms of customer numbers, claiming a 32 percent market share as of the end of September, according to the latest figures from Japan’s Telecommunications Carriers Association. NTT DoCoMo is bigger, Softbank smaller. It’s worth noting that the TCA does not include fourth network operator Rakuten Mobile in its data, presumably because it has yet to rack up a meaningful number of customers.

    The launch of Rakuten Mobile as an MNO almost three years ago gave competition something of a shot in the arm in the Japanese mobile market, and of course it coincided with the early days of 5G in the country, another competitive battleground. The country’s operators are still in something of a landgrab phase, so getting its 5G SA core sorted is a step forward for KDDI.

    The telco is behind DoCoMo in the 5G customer race, with just over 15 million at the end of last year to its rival’s 18.22 million. Softbank didn’t share numbers. Nonetheless, it’s clearly a close call at present, making the Japanese market one to watch going forward.

    Spectrum allocation, for 5G services and beyond, is also likely to focus the attention of the broader industry on Japan in the coming months and years.

    The government is planning to introduce an auction system for the allocation of spectrum, according to a report by Nikkei last month. While spectrum auctions are the norm in most telecoms markets, Japan has historically doled out airwaves to its mobile operators at no cost and with no competitive element, the thinking doubtless being that operators need their cash to roll out networks.

    However, the news agency claims that Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will introduce the auction concept by the end of fiscal 2025, or end-March of that year, although it notes that the winners will not be determined solely by bid price, but also by technology roadmaps and business plans.

    It’s a proposal that has been in the works for some time and has both supporters and detractors. As the Japan Times reported last summer, DoCoMo has come out in favour of the idea, while newcomer Rakuten fears for its competitive position. KDDI and Softbank have less strong views, by all accounts.

    It will be interesting to see how that one plays out, and ultimately what, if any, effect it has on the market.

    In the meantime, the telcos are focusing on their own 5G rollouts. For KDDI that means leveraging the Samsung 5G SA core to facilitate higher-performance use cases like smart factories, automated vehicles, cloud-based online gaming and multi-camera live streaming at sporting events. It is also keen to push on with network slicing, something that will help it to attract enterprise customers and the revenue potential they offer.

    But that’s not a position unique to KDDI, of course, or even to Japan. Mobile operators the world over have the same goals.

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