The next generation of mobile wireless technology is on the horizon, as 5G networks are expected to be available to users in the 2020 timeframe. The leap to 5G aims to enhance mobile user experience by offering lightning fast network speeds of 20Gbps, improved network area coverage, and a latency of only milliseconds. 5G networks are also expected to support a greater number of end systems, paving the way for new IoT applications and other machine-to-machine services.
Unlike previous wireless generations, 5G will have its architecture built on software defined networks (SDN) and will rely on virtual network functions (VNFs) to provide the scalability and agility required to meet the growing demand for services.
Everyone wants a slice of the pie
While the benefits of improved network performance are significant, the real potential behind 5G networks is in the ability to build customized end-to-end virtual networks based specific requirements and deploy them throughout the entire network. This concept of creating virtual sub-networks on shared infrastructure is known as network slicing.
A good example of where network slicing may be applied would be at a concert. Prior to the start of a show, concert-goers arrive at the arena and start checking social media, or the musician’s website for show updates. This causes the network to focus on the traffic taking place on the downlink. However, once the show starts, people in the crowd begin sharing videos and other content to social media, switching the network’s focus to the traffic on the uplink.
Maintaining service quality
While the 5G networks and network slicing possibilities are endless, network operations can quickly become complex as a result of this dynamic environment.
In order to realize the full potential of this technology, the focus must move beyond integrating virtual network functions (VNF) into the network, and on to assuring the state of services going across different network domains.
From a service assurance perspective, there are two way this can be carried out:
- Monitoring utilization and performance data of services across physical and virtual infrastructure
- Establishing a unified view of connectivity across the different domains
Through this, service providers will be able to unlock the full potential of 5G and avoid network performance issues, such as service outages.
As service providers move towards these NFV defined network, and network slicing begins to deploy, the ability to carry out end-to-end service assurance across multi-domain networks is an issue that needs to be addressed to welcome the future with open arms.