After years of waiting and planning, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) across the globe are now rapidly deploying 5G to meet the needs of consumers and enterprises. The interest in 5G primarily stems from its capability to deliver ubiquitous high-speed connectivity – up to 10x the throughput with 1/10th the latency of 4G – faster than the available fixed line connectivity in many locations.

But when considering 5G ‘speed’, high throughput and low latency are just part of the story. MNOs will also leverage the flexibility, openness, and reliability of 5G networks to power a plethora of 5G applications and use cases to deliver an entirely new connected experience.  This is where end-to-end network slicing and zero-touch automation factor in.

End-to-End Network Slicing

5G networks will accommodate a myriad of new applications and use cases, including mission critical ones, each with their own unique network performance requirements. With network slicing, MNOs can create multiple unique end-to-end virtual networks, known as slices, over common 5G network infrastructure, including the virtualized core, xHaul (combination of backhaul, midhaul, and fronthaul transport), and the Radio Access Network (RAN).

Each slice is isolated from one another and is tailored to meet the unique performance requirements of different types of applications and use-cases. Some of the requirements include demand for speed, capacity, ultra-low latency, security, topology, reliability, or a combination thereof.

For transport slicing, operators can either make use of hard slicing (ex. FlexEthernet) where resources are dedicated to a specific network slice, or soft slicing (ex. Segment Routing) where resources are shared with other slices but do not interfere with each other and thus prevents one slice from receiving, observing, or interfering with another slice’s data traffic.

Network slicing allows MNOs to not only support numerous new 5G applications and use cases, but also enables the optimum use of their 5G infrastructure to minimize CAPEX. With slicing, resources can be allocated to a slice when and where required to meet its specific QoS or SLA requirement. When a slice is no longer required, or performance issues in a slice have been resolved, the associated resources can then be released to inventory for reuse – thus optimizing underlying network resources. Consequently, MNOs do not have to over-provision resources for a slice or over-engineer the network anticipating future growth.

Figure 1: 73% respondents see NSSF as the most important 5G function (Source: IHS Markit Technology “OSS/BSS Evolution in a 5G Era Service Provider Survey – Dec 2019”)

More speed with automated slice lifecycle management!

But it isn’t enough for MNOs to be able to design and activate end-to-end network slices that meet application or use case requirements alone. Equally important is the speed at which slices are delivered and managed. As more and more industries and enterprises adopt 5G, end-users, humans, and machines (IoT) will expect new slices with custom requirements to be delivered in minutes and existing slices modified to meet performance guarantees in real-time.

The answer to this challenge lies in automating the lifecycle management of network slices. Zero-touch slice lifecycle management not only helps reduce the time to market and time to revenue for 5G services, but also ensures performance guarantees for existing slices with minimal human, and often error-prone, intervention.

Blue Planet recently introduced a vendor-agnostic 5G automation solution that helps MNOs transition to 5G by automating end-to-end network slice lifecycle management. The solution enables zero-touch orchestration of network slices, including design, activation, modification and deactivation, for 5G Core, xHaul, and the RAN, all at the click of a mouse!

We invite you to check out our brand-new demo video on end-to-end network slicing to see how Blue Planet can help automate the entire lifecycle of network slices, to enable zero-touch 5G networks.

You can also watch the Ciena sponsored IHS Markit webinar (now Omdia), “Unlocking new revenue streams with 5G network slicing” to reduce the time to revenue from your 5G deployments.