5G Network Slicing: Empowering Vertical Industries

Article By : Fibocom

5G network slicing is the key technology that will enable the operators and engineers to provide services and applications to users according to their requested requirements.

5G development and deployment are accelerating, especially in Asia. Field trials are underway, components are coming, and testing covers the spectrum in more ways than one. What are the challenges and how is the ecosystem shaping up? Find out more in this month’s In Focus series.


The emergence of 5G networks is based on the vision of providing very high data rates, wider coverage area, enhanced throughput, delay-less services, and significantly better Quality-of-Services (QoS). It is not just an upper version of 4G systems but is much more beyond that in terms of technological capabilities and service provision. Current wireless network systems have become insufficient to manage user requirements, which are tremendously increasing on daily basis, due to their limited resources. 5G wireless network is expected to accommodate several times larger customers and their increasing data traffic efficiently. Some of the characteristics of 5G are:

  • 1-10Gbps connection, which is almost 10 times higher than the traditional LTE network’s theoretical peak data rate of 150 Mbps
  • 10-100x devices interconnected all the time via the Internet.
  • Availability of 99.999%
  • Round trip latency of 1ms, which is a reduction of almost 10 times from 4G’s round trip latency of 10ms.
  • 90% reduced power consumption of network, and 10 years long battery life for low power consumption devices.
  • ‘Anytime Anywhere’ connectivity coverage of almost 100%
  • Reduction in energy consumption by 90%.

Moreover, some crucial new techniques will also become part of 5G networks such as New Radio on Unlicensed band (NR-U), NR Vehicle-to-X (V2X), software-defined network (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), with new features including diversified terminals, large number of nodes, ultra-high density node deployment, the coexistence of multiple wireless technologies and security schemes, and Network Slicing.


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What is 5G Network Splicing

The idea of network slicing is a significant part of 5G networks. 5G provides the connection of multiple devices to communicate with each other over the Internet, allowing it to support IoT. The main technology behind 5G, which is allowing it to support multiple and diverse devices and services simultaneously is the network slicing technology.

Network slicing originates from the concept of network virtualization techniques to deploy multiple logical/virtual systems that run on top of a single shared physical network architecture. The main objective behind using network slicing is to divide the physical network resources to optimally group different traffic and configure the network resources at a macro level. There is a separation between each slice in terms of case/field with specific necessary operations. The network slicing divides a single common physical network into various virtual end-to-end (E2E) networks.

While performing the division, the target is to customize and optimize each network with respect to resources, QoS, and security.

Figure 1: Advantages of network slicing.

Network Slicing Services

Three types of services are available and standardized by the 3rd generation partnership Project (3GPP). These services are the defining characteristics of 5G and can coexist within the same network architecture by using network slicing:

1. eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband)

Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) is a critical aspect of the 5G network, giving it a completely new direction in terms of applications and services. eMBB applications are very video-centric and consume a lot of bandwidth and will generate the most traffic on the mobile network, like 8K streaming, AR, VR, and cloud-based gaming.

eMBB provides stable connections with very high peak data rates as well as moderate data rates for edge users. eMBB consists of large payloads and device activation pattern that remains stable for a longer time. This allows the network to allocate different wireless resources to each eMBB device. eMBB guarantees moderate reliability with packet error rate (PER) of order 10-3.

2. uRLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications)

Ultra-reliable low latency communication (uRLLC) is a technology that supports low-latency transmissions of small data payloads with high reliability from limited terminals that are active according to a particular pattern defined by an outside event, such as alarm. uRLLC applications require a lightning-fast response time for mission-critical applications like industrial automation, telepresence, teleoperation, telerobotic, autonomous vehicles, UAVs, drone operations, public safety, and smart buildings. The main objective of URLLC is to achieve a high-reliability level with PER lower than 10-5.

3. mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communications)

Massive machine type communication (mMTC) supports a large number of Internet-of-things (IoT) devices that get active periodically and send small data packets using a low transmission rate in the uplink. Typically, innumerable mMTC devices are connected to a base station, but at a given time, only a particular random number of devices are active to send data, which is also denoted as a random variable that measures the mMTC arrival rate. The main objective of mMTC is to maximize the arrival rate with a given radio resource. It has a PER of order 10-1.

These three services are allocated orthogonal or non-orthogonal radio resources by slicing the radio access network (RAN). Network slicing guarantees complete isolation and enhanced performance levels of each service by allocating network computing, storage, and communication resources among them.

Figure 2: Dynamic and secure network slices empower vertical industries.

The Current Market and Industry Analysis

The current markets and industries based on 4G network technology are reaching technical limits of how much data it can quickly deliver over the given frequency spectrum. The evolution of the 5G network promises to eliminate this bandwidth congestion issue, which is the main limitation of 4G networks.

4G networks have now become insufficient to meet the demands of modern industries which require high speed, high capacity, low latency, low interference, longer battery life, and better efficiency. Moreover, the conventional market and industry infrastructure lack IoT technology and smart applications which can improve the industry production rate and revenues, and reduce human effort.

According to the recent report1, it is expected that 5G will generate $12.3 trillion of global economic output in 2035. Not only this but, the study of an International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that the amount of data created, captured, processed, and replicated all across the world will increase from 33 Zettabytes (ZB) in 2018 to 175 ZB by 2025.

Challenges

Following are the challenges faced due to the current communication networks:

1. Multimedia Limitation

The current multimedia applications face several limitations due to the lack of resources, such as bandwidth, provided by existing 4G networks. Some of these limitations include:

  • Poor Virtual Reality Experience
  • Very High Latency
  • Hardware Barriers for Advanced Gaming Experience
  • Delay in Live Streaming of Sports Due to Low Bandwidth
  • Inability To Monitor and Deliver High-Resolution Video
  • Lack of Diversified and Isolated Network

The deployment of vertical industries requires flexible, orchestrated, and isolated network architecture with optimal capabilities to ensure high reliability and ultra-low latency. The existing 4G networks cannot fulfil these latency requirements, especially in smart grids. Moreover, it does not provide an isolated network as the applications and services of 4G run on the same network which may interfere with each other, resulting in service degradation. Furthermore, it lacks diversification as it offers the same network functions for all services.

2. Security Challenge

Security of data is a fundamental requirement of the network where each application requires E2E security protection. The security algorithms and encryption techniques provided by the current communication network are insufficient to secure the user data and protect it against malicious attacks and eavesdroppers.

Benefits of Using 5G and Network Slicing

  • Low Latency

Network slicing offers low latency which is very significant for both media and entertainment purposes such as gaming, live streaming, smooth virtual reality experience, etc. as well as for healthcare departments to enable remote medical services, diagnostics and surgery, and for military operations.

  • Offers Diversified and Isolated Network Services

5G network slicing technique resolves the issues of providing a diversified and isolated network as it divides the network resources and allows 5G services to run on different slices to avoid interference and improve resource utilization.

  • Security

Network slicing ensures a flexible security architecture to provide multilevel slice security assurance. When users of vertical industries need specific security requirements, they request customized network slicing with various levels of security protection from carriers. Different security capabilities provided by network slicing include security management, network protocol security, and device resource security.

5G Network Slicing Empowering Vertical Industries

5G network slicing is a multi-system support technique that has the ability to support vertical industries with its efficient slicing and resource allocation techniques. The industry customers can order network slices from operators and provide network requirements like slice type, capacity, performance, and coverage. Operators then create network slices according to their requirements. Industry customers acquire management information of the requested slices via open interfaces. In this section, we discuss the use cases of network slicing integrated with Fibocom 5G modules for reliable, accessible, secure, and intelligent cellular wireless solutions for IoT applications to bring perfect wireless experiences to everyone. 5G network slicing allows eMBB, uRLLC, and mMTC to work together to bring new services and innovations into the network allowing it to support massive IoT and mission-critical applications in fields of automated manufacturing, healthcare departments, defense, self-driving vehicles, smart cities, smart homes, 4K/8K video streaming, and virtual/augmented reality.

Fibocom’s 5G modules have met quality and top industry standards in China and globally and have undergone a successful validation for 5G network slicing activation by activating eMBB 1st slice under testing conducted in the KPN IoT lab environment with real 5G network equipment. The modules are capable of providing high-speed end-to-end wireless data transmission seamlessly across borders.

5G Smart Grid

One of the most technological advancements to be deployed in upcoming years is the replacement of conventional electricity grid systems by the smart grid. Smart grid is the integration of wireless communication network into electricity grid for carrying data regarding power distribution, usage, and control instructions for power devices leading to an intelligent grid system.

5G network slicing plays a crucial role in the functionality of the smart grid. It divides the 5G network into logically isolated networks, where each one is seen as a slice. It allows the smart grid to customize the slices with different functions and service level agreement (SLA) assurances as per the requirement of various grid services. Smart grid services like power generation, power transmission, power transformation, power distribution, and power consumption require different needs of network bandwidth, latency, jitter, bit error rate, and reliability. Network slicing enables four major application scenarios of a smart grid that allows it to enhance the power quality, reliability of the system, and reduce operational cost, labor intensity, and power consumption. These four major smart grid application scenarios are:

  • Intelligent Distributed Feeder Automation
  • Millisecond-Level Precise Load Control
  • Information Acquirement of Low Voltage Distribution Systems
  • Distributed Power Supplies

Utilizing 5G’s network slicing, enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable low-latency communications (uRLLC), smart grid systems have provided the possibility of enabling two-way communication between electricity consumers and distributer, thereby allowing distributors to manage and effectively handle electricity distribution. Fibocom 5G modules enable smart grid applications, such as supervisory monitoring, fault localization, isolation/self-healing, and energy re-routing to function correctly on 5G networks. Our modules embedded in smart grids technologies offer a 􀁗exible and orchestrated network, high reliability, and millisecond ultra-low latency to meet its diverse needs – increasing grid efficiency, reliability, and safety. Fibocom 5G modules empower the following technologies in smart grids:

  • Power Distribution Automation

The intelligent power convergence terminal is equipped with Fibocom 5G modules, allowing real-time perception of equipment status in the station area, active fault diagnosis and repair, improving user power experience, and improving power supply quality.

  • Power Differential Protection

With low latency, high capacity and security, 5G-based differential protection system can be operated in real-time or quasi-real-time. Deploying Intelligent terminals integrated with Fibocom’s 5G modules, line differential protection can be handled with wireless ultra-reliable and low latency communication.

  • Power Station & Lines Inspection

5G network slicing plays an important part in identifying the fault location and isolation using high bandwidth surveillance methods. Fibocom 5G modules embedded in the inspection terminals can monitor the power line transmission status in real-time, anywhere, without using local wired deployment, thus lowering the costs of network deployments.

5G Intelligent Mining

Mining plays a significant role in the development of a country’s economy and the utilization of its mineral resources. But it has brought a huge challenge to human and industrial safety. Underground mining operations can be extremely dangerous at such deep depths where signal quality is weak or non-existent for adequate and fast communication. Due to the high demands on productivity and safety in mining, the industry is progressively developing toward unmanned, automated, and visualized mines that need communication infrastructure for precise positioning and operation of underground machinery, real-time data transmission, and the connection of a considerable number of connected devices. The upcoming era of 5G networks and artificial intelligence (AI) is seen as a ray for introducing a new AI-based mining method known as intelligent mining.

The use of 5G technology in coal mining has been observed to make great progress with its digital management techniques which offer more accurate and appropriate management capabilities to the coal industry. Operators have successfully achieved 5G private network coverage in underground mines via underground equipment with built-in 5G modules.

Fibocom’s 5G modules integrated into smart mining IoT enables a range of intelligent mining benefits:

  • Avoids accidents by providing the latest and efficient communication system in the mine.
  • More scientific, quantitative, and intelligent.
  • Provides mine with “ears”, “eyes” and “intelligent brains”.
  • Enable workers and practitioners to know the danger in advance to deal with it timely and maintain mine production safety.
  • Saves costs and strengthens mine management resulting in greater mine production and revenues.
  • Improves market competitiveness
  • Reduces labor cost and issues of employee recruitment.

The technique of network slicing and mobile edge computing allows the operators to place the brain of the automated and unmanned machine equipment in the ground management center to acquire shared computing and shared processing units, which provides safer and more efficient operations and better utilizes resources while lowering production costs. Hence, network slicing can bring new solutions to coal mines, creating new economic and social benefits.

5G Smart Port

Ports play an important role in supporting modern transportation for promoting international trade. There is an increased urgency for ports to become more efficient as they become busier due to globalization and the increasing scale and utilization of vessels.

The conventional port system depends upon human resources to operate container cranes which may include tasks in harsh environments and require heavy labor intensity. Moreover, these ports are equipped with fixed machinery which is connected to the network via cables. Due to this, the requirements for the modern development of global sea transportation cannot be fulfilled.

Therefore, 5G smart ports possesses network slicing techniques that ensure safe and efficient processes throughout the port system. In 5G smart port, network slicing can be employed in the following cases equipped with Fibocom’s 5G modules2:

5G Live Stream

5G network slicing and smarter mobile tech are creating a perfect storm that’s going to transform live streaming. IoT embedded with Fibocom’s 5G modules allows vast amounts of data to be transmitted in real-time, overcoming time lag issues essential for live video streaming.

Livestreaming IoT empowered by Fibocom 5G modules can be used in the following cases:

  • Allows teachers to create engaging experiences in classrooms by immediately accessing worldwide subjects
  • Parents who are far away from schools can see their children participating in school plays, dance competitions, and games.
  • Enables doctors to treat those patients who are living in remote areas and are unable to come to hospitals.
  • Enable doctors to seek help from other expert surgeons present in other parts of the world during surgeries via live video call.
  • Open opportunities for remote coaching in sports.

Network slicing allows the fulfill requirement of each case separately but simultaneously, without burdening the network. It enables the networks to subdivide, where a movie channel that requires high bandwidth for UHD 8K content to run smoothly, while live streaming sports can run simultaneously utilizing ultra-low latency.

Conclusion

5G network slicing is the key technology that will enable the operators and engineers to provide services and applications to users according to their requested requirements. 5G promises to enhance user experience with its innumerous service capabilities such as high speed, large bandwidth, low latency, etc. but without network slicing, it is unable to reach that performance level. Hence, all state-of-the-art techniques proposed for 5G networks need to first successfully incorporate network slicing in 5G so that their applications and services can be properly delivered to users with promised performance capabilities.

Fibocom’s 5G solutions enable devices to independently and flexibly select network slices to provide personalized services based on different industry sectors, but also effectively isolate the same type of traffic, and even provide customized services for various users from the same industry, empowering new business models.

 

For more information on Fibocom, visit https://www.fibocom.com/en/index.html.

 

References

  1. Reinsel, D., Gantz, J. and Rydning, J., 2018. The Digitization of the World From Edge to Core. Framingham, MA: International Data Corporation (IDC).

  2. Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd, 2019. 5G Smart Port White Paper. [online] Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd, p.10. Available at https://www.huawei.com/en/technology-insights/industry-insights/outlook/mobile-broadband/xlabs/insights-whitepapers/5g-smart-port-whitepaper/.

 

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