5G network slicing – commercialization and business models

Mr. Luo Zuo, Director of Integrated Solutions Department from ZTE speaking at the 24th GTI (Global TD-LTE Initiative) Workshop held prior to the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona.

The 24th GTI (Global TD-LTE Initiative) Workshop was successfully held recently prior to the Mobile World Congress 2019 (MWC 2019) in Barcelona, Spain. Mr. Luo Zuo, Director of Integrated Solutions Department from ZTE, gave a keynote speech entitled “5G End-to-end Slicing System and Practice” at the workshop, introducing the latest developments of the 5G end-to-end network slicing system in R&D and applications in ZTE. He also gave suggestions for future pilot and commercial deployment of the slicing system.

ZTE is one of the pioneers in the field of 5G network slicing. During MWC 2018, ZTE was the first to release the 5G end-to-end network slicing solution, which consists of sub-slices in 5G RAN, 5G Core, 5G Flexhaul and end-to-end MANO system. The solution has three key features: on-demand customization, rapid deployment, and operable capability. The features and capabilities of logical subnets can be customized according to service types in the operation process. Operators can authorize their customers to purchase and operate network slices on their own through the open standard APIs and self-service portals so that to expand business opportunities.

“ZTE 5G end-to-end network slicing solution adopts standard service based architecture, integrating radio access network with the unified air interface, virtualized core network and SDN based transmission network. Based on the end-to-end scheduling system, the network slicing system realizes life-cycle management, and provides on-demand customization and online provisioning of network slices.” “At the same time, the solution introduces AI engine to empower 5G slices, and continuously improves the intelligent level and service assurance capability of 5G network”, Mr. Zuo introduced.

In November 2018, ZTE demonstrated the live 5G applications based on the 5G-ready end-to-end network slicing system to the visiting operators in Shanghai, China, showing ZTE’s latest research and development achievements in automatic design and deployment, security isolation, real-time monitoring, and automatic scaling of network slices. “The demo in Shanghai shows that the conditions for commercial deployment of eMBB slices are basically mature and have the capability of commercial operation. Meanwhile, ZTE is also working closely with operators to promote the end-to-end slicing specification formulation and pilot so that network slices can be put into commercial use as soon as possible,” Mr. Zuo said.

Network slicing mainly serves for vertical industrial applications. It relies on the maturity of the telecommunication technology, and also the deep involvement of vertical industries. The most important thing is the construction of new business models. All of these require the deep cooperation of the telecommunication industry and the vertical industries.

In terms of standard establishment, ZTE is the membership of over 40 standardization organizations, alliances and forums, devoting to formulate a unified global 5G standards under the guidance of 3GPP. ZTE takes the lead of two projects related to network slicing in 3GPP, including the fault supervision and enhancement of 5G network slicing. 

In the process of slicing technology verifications, ZTE has carried out a lot of researches and accumulated rich experiences. For example, in the national 5G test related to network slicing in China, ZTE built a network with unified air-interface based on network slicing and low-frequency base stations, which can support three scenarios of eMBB, mMTC and uRLLC, reaching a single-cell peak rate of 15Gbps, an air-interface delay lower than 0.416ms and a large number of connections exceeding 90 million/MHz/hour.

ZTE has been actively involved in the collaborations with vertical partners, including those leading companies in multiple industries. For example, in the case of smart driving, ZTE and Baidu jointly applied the national key science and technology project “R&D and Verification of Key Technologies for ICT Integrated Autonomous Driving under 5G Support”, and successfully conducted the autonomous driving test in Xiong’an New District (Hebei, China) in March 2018. In the field of intelligent manufacturing, ZTE cooperates with Xinsong Robotics Co., Ltd., and ZTE also cooperates with partners in the research of smart grid supported by uRLLC and network slicing in power industry.

Mr. Zuo mentioned that in the early stage of 5G, the main scenario will be of eMBB applications, such as AR/VR and other HD video services. In the development period of 5G commercialization, 5G will penetrate into various industries such as manufacturing, transportation, electric power, medical care and education etc., to accelerate the digital transformation of these industries. In the mature period of commercial 5G, with the arriving of the era of the Internet of Everything, the demand for massive IoT connections will be gradually boomed.

ZTE proposed a three-step strategy for the future pilot and commercial use of network slices. “The first step is to accomplish specification formulation and the interoperability test among vendors before the actual deployment of the 5G network slicing. For example, in terms of slice definition, deployment, operation and maintenance, operation, etc., how to share slice resources, unify management, open the operation capability, and provide intelligent and agile service to customers and ensure consistency of user experience, all these issues require the operators to take the lead and collaborate with the vendors.” Mr. Zuo said, “The second step is to commercially deploy the eMBB slices and conduct pilot of uRLLC slices, focusing on exploring the new business model and innovative operation. The third step is to overall deploy the network slices and introduce AI, and also to realize the capability of openness to aggregate innovative applications in vertical industries, enabling the transformation of operators to digitalized social platform providers from traditional infrastructure providers.”

Finally, in terms of business model, how to carry out slice operation is an issue that the industry is exploring. Mr. Zuo stressed that ZTE has put forward the concept of “slice commercialization”, which focuses the abilities of customization, delivery, measurement and billing of 5G slices. Through the capacity open platform, the multi-level supply of network slicing is realized to open a new mode of “slice operation”, which empowers the vertical innovations and then to enable thousands of applications on one network.

“The 5G applications in vertical industries will not be achieved at one go, but a gradual process of penetration and maturity, which will be launched step by step with the deepening of 5G commercial process.” “We believe that all the problems will be solved with the formulation of standards and the further decoupling and opening of slicing systems.” Mr. Zuo concluded.

This sponsored article was brought to you by ZTE

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