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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