MWC 2019: a 5G network with multiple service instances: Network Slicing proves its worth

Although already in use with 4G, the concept of network slicing reached its most advanced developmental stage with the advent of 5G, which opens up new opportunities for the simultaneous delivery of service levels adapted to several types of uses, objects or customers. This immense potential is demonstrated by Orange through a live demo at MWC 2019.

5G network slicing to support multiple consumer and enterprise services simultaneously

At last year’s MWC, Orange presented the results of a network slicing experiment on 4G and demonstrated its effectiveness in a use case related to the connected car domain. In 2019, Orange will take the next step and demonstrate the network slicing technique (splitting the network into “logical” sub-networks answering to different service levels) on a 5G network.

Dynamic and flexible virtual networks

As a reminder, two main architectures have been defined for the 5G: 5G Non Standalone (5G NSA) and 5G Standalone (5G SA). The 5G NSA is based on a coupling of 4G and 5G radios and possibly uses the 4G core while the 5G SA relies on an independent 5G radio (4G radio) on the new 5G core network and is the target for term of 5G networks.

Network slicing consists in splitting a network into several virtual slices, operated from a common shared physical infrastructure. Each of these slices is “configurable” according to the use cases they support, in order to deliver an appropriate level of performance in terms of reliability, latency, bandwidth capacity, coverage, etc. In this architecture, virtualisation is the technical facilitator of flexibility, allowing the network to be aligned as closely as possible to the specific needs of different customers, between customised and on-demand.

While numerous studies and experiments are being carried out in this area within the operators’ ecosystem, the demonstration carried out by Orange is unique in two ways. Firstly, it is based on a standard end-to-end standalone network architecture (5G SA), and secondly, it features a network supporting both corporate and consumer uses.

Standalone 5G network slicing – pure 5G

Qing Shen, project Manager “5G SA experimentation” at Orange, led the implementation of the demonstration, in collaboration with Olivier Simon, Director of Innovation in Radio, and Nabil Charkani, Head of Network Control Architecture. “Orange is among the first ecosystem players in Europe to be in this standalone configuration” they explain. It is on the basis of this architecture that the first 5G SA voice and data call was made at the end of 2018. This standalone version is pure 5G, but first deployments are not expected until 2021 at the earliest. It offers more advanced features than non-standalone 5G and its hybrid architecture that leverages existing 4G networks.”

Orange’s demonstration of 5G network slicing at MWC is an example of this development.

Consumer and enterprise applications simultaneously

It is accordingly based on an experimental 5G end-to-end standalone architecture deployed in Valencia, Spain, in collaboration with the Orange Spain teams. Under such a configuration, several network slicing strategies are implemented to support three types of real-time usage. Two of these usages are based on improved mobile broadband for a 360° camera solution and for cameras fitted to an autonomous vehicle, while the third usage is focused on a multi-player gaming service. For the latter, it is possible to compare the latency performance of one standard generation with that of another: from about thirty milliseconds with 4G to 5 milliseconds in 5G in the long term. At the Barcelona booth, visitors can also view the images captured in Valencia via a VR helmet using the 360° camera. Finally, the status of the slices (network slices) are displayed in real time from a dedicated web interface and application, in order to ensure that resource management mechanisms are behaving correctly and dynamically in line with traffic trends in a context of multiple network slicing.

Closer, more accurate, faster

“The end-to-end network slicing makes it possible to more efficiently meet specific needs, and virtualisation offers the possibility to instantiate on demand and provide the required function in a manner that is as close to the customer as possible. We can thus achieve maximum flexibility through the automation of slice assembly. The demonstration in Barcelona reaffirms these commitments. More generally, it reflects the fact that 5G standalone is not limited to an improved mobile broadband network for the consumer. It also has genuine ambitions in the corporate sphere and paves the way for the introduction of new dedicated services. By positioning itself at the forefront of this cutting-edge pure 5G, Orange emphasises its desire to support all its corporate customers, regardless of the business sector in which they operate, and to help them to take ownership of this new ambient connectivity.”

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With 5G, XR experiences increasingly inclusive and accessible to all

Live streaming has become increasingly widespread. With the addition of 5G, this service can be dramatically improved at all levels, including image quality, download times, interruptions and lag. Faced with today’s generations’ enthusiasm for live feeds, researchers are now working to adapt live streaming TV so it can be done on the go. The Goal: Lag-Free Live Streams Getting closer to what’s happening live is one of the main challenges in the field of live streaming. Yet, streaming over the Internet using Wi-Fi or 4G still results in a lag of 30, 40 or even 50 seconds on tablets or smartphones. This lag will particularly hit home for any soccer fans who have ever heard their neighbor watching TV and cheering for a goal they haven’t seen yet. It also affects participants in time-limited interactive TV game shows and televised broadcasts by figures of authority in relation to announcements, alerts or disasters, for example. Ensuring service continuity, particularly when faced with high demand, is another challenge of live streaming. At Orange Innovation, researchers are therefore thinking about how they can make improvements in the field of TV streaming on the go, using a combination of 5G, video streaming technologies (multicast, low latency), network bandwidth allocation (network slicing) and edge computing. Their work has primarily focused on mutualizing streams; a key way of saving bandwidth. Dominique Thômé, Product Manager Innovation Data TV, explains that “Unlike unicast technology, which broadcasts streams as many times as there are simultaneous connections, multicast should allow a single stream to be broadcast to thousands of people connected to a large 5G zone. This mutualization prevents bandwidth loss and, consequently, service interruptions from network congestion. Another advantage, which is of great importance to Orange, is that it consumes less energy and therefore contributes to the transition to a low-carbon economy.” Recognizing the Know-How of Carriers Experiments carried out in the Orange laboratory have yielded interesting results. A real-time readjustment of video quality to prevent network saturation resulted in each customer being able to watch TV with only five seconds of lag, confirming the feasibility of 5G live streaming on the go. In fact, faced with ever-increasing volumes, some broadcasters are beginning to turn to carriers to broadcast their TV streams. They need players that are able to transmit this huge amount of data while ensuring optimal quality, in order to avoid any latency problems. Thibaut Mathieu, Director of Innovation for Interactive & Multiscreen Services at Orange says that “Our pioneering approach toward 5G live streaming highlights the valuable role that network carriers play, right at the heart of the system, compared to OTT players (“over the top,” such as the Tech Giants), both in terms of technology and business. We will be able to get involved in data transmission, with optimal mutualization technology that will save money and energy.” These technologies are consistent with Orange’s CSR commitment, both in terms of carbon footprint (lower energy consumption) and inclusion (broadcasting the right information at the right time). More than Just Entertainment The challenge goes far beyond the traditional TV broadcasting market itself. In the context of the health crisis, brands have been quick to understand the value of live streams to generate sales and are starting to venture into “Live Shopping.” Originating from China, this large-scale approach to teleshopping consists of an online event where presenters, influencers or personalities showcase products live to a digital audience who are able to order products or ask questions. Live Shopping is attracting more and more brands around the world. “With hundreds of thousands of people connected at the same time, its large scale will certainly create capacity issues” says Thômé. “This is another case where mutualization will ensure quality of service.”

How 5G Is Revolutionizing Live Streaming

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