5G slicing can now create virtual private networks for different users with different purposes, covering one building, or an entire continent.
The 5G network is rolling out now, and this upgrade is all about business. Here’s what you need to know to secure a slice of the action.
If you’re trying to understand how 5G will change the world, you could do worse than to stop obsessing about “killer apps” and download speeds and start by contemplating a glass of wine. Specifically, how that magical chardonnay or pinot noir ended up in your hand.
Imagine, for a moment, the vineyard that produced the wine. Beneath the neatly trellised vines and gnarled rootstock of your favourite varietal lie thousands of sensors, picking up the vineyard’s vital signs: water content, pH, soil nutrition. The trellises themselves are armed with devices that monitor canopy cover and can detect early mildew incursion. Among the rows are more devices that act as virtual pathways directing the mechanised pickers. Then imagine these devices hooked into an AI analytics system connected to the weather forecast, allowing for smart irrigation decisions and real-time operator control.
Now think about how each of these control systems has slightly different needs. The picking system, for example, needs low-latency (or fast response times) so its path can be tweaked instantly for maximum picking efficiency. It needs high reliability so the vines aren’t destroyed if it goes off piste. And it needs medium bandwidth so it can run a video feed from the picker’s eyes to the controller. On the other hand, the myriad soil sensors require a control system with no obvious latency or network mobility needs, but high reliability and mass-connectivity.
Until now, business solutions such as these that rely on 3G and 4G mobile technology, have had to work mostly within the constraints of a single network’s capacity. The looming step-up to 5G technology changes all that. Soon organisations – from emergency services to artisan winemakers – will have the ability to use bespoke solutions through a characteristic of 5G called “network slicing”. Much like carving up a cake, slicing gives operators the capacity to carve thin slices for people who want specific characteristics of the technology for small geographic areas, and thick slices for those who might want all the capabilities over a national network.
The CTO and Head of Technology for Nokia Oceania, Adam Bryant, says that while 5G may be the fifth upgrade to a technology that started with people lugging around suitcase-sized mobiles and is now all about watching sports and drama on the move, the “killer app” is not consumer-focused. This generational shift is all about business.
“The biggest thing with 5G is giving businesses an end-to-end view solution,” he says. “Network slicing in particular is a way of giving different virtual private networks to different users for different purposes, which means that we’re moving towards a point where an operator can actually contract their own service level agreement [SLA] depending on their specific needs. And that’s a big change for industry.”