SRv6 Flex-Algo powers SoftBank’s new 5G dynamic network slicing

softbank SRv6 Flex-Algo

CommsUpdate: Japanese telecoms operator SoftBank Corp has announced that it recently completed the deployment of Segment Routing IPv6 (SRv6) technology into its commercial network, and has started to implement network slicing – a key component of 5G – using a new feature of SRv6, ‘SRv6 Flex-Algo’ that dynamically creates slices, called Algo, over the IP network.

SoftBank explained in its press release that packets from each service are forwarded to appropriate slices according to their identifiers, which makes it possible to steer traffic according to their respective service requirements. Combined with 5G, SRv6 Flex-Algo enables a network to meet the needs of a variety of services.

SRv6 Flex-Algo
SRv6 Flex-Algo Architecture. Source: SoftBank

SRv6 is a next-generation IP transport protocol that utilizes existing IPv6 forwarding technology to implements network programming through flexible IPv6 extension headers. Proponents say that SRv6 simplifies network protocol types, makes IPv6 networks more programmable, supports diverse requirements for new services, and is suitable for things such as cross-domain interconnection, large-scale networking and cloud-network synergy.

SRv6 is also the core of ETSI’s IPv6 Enhanced standard, which was defined in 2020 and enables IPv6 to support the connectivity requirements of software-defined cloud-native networks with differentiated services, network slicing and ultra-low latencies.

SoftBank began deploying its SRv6 network across Japan in 2019 in collaboration with Cisco to simplify network layers and integrate user plane functions end-to-end in its planned 5G network.

In February at MWC 2022, SoftBank showcased its own SRv6 Mobile User Plane (MUP) technology that it said could enable mobile operators to implement a complete mobile user-plane (U-plane) across commercial SRv6 networks. The proof of concept (PoC) demonstration of SRv6 MUP at Intel’s virtual booth used Arrcus’ ArcOS, a native SRv6 MUP implementation combined with Intel’s hardware platform. VMWare, which also demoed the technology at its MWC ’22 booth, provided cloud platform support for SRv6 MUP.

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