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5G network slicing: Do you have the team you need?

Moving to 5G isn't just about faster speed for apps and data. Implementing the network slicing capabilities of 5G could enable your team to deliver services and applications that are better tailored to customers' needs using specific criteria like latency and security to segment traffic and separate virtual networks.

If you want to build an effective 5G implementation and keep your team more agile, network slicing can become a critical tool that should magnify the difference between 4G and 5G. 5G network slicing can allow your team to innovate, while they separate and prioritize mission-critical data like never before.

Evolving mobile network slicing

Network slicing is a type of virtual networking technology in the same family of network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), which assist in evolving networks toward software-based automation. Slicing creates logical, software-based partitions in a self-contained, virtualized environment that takes priority over physical components. Any available capacity of common resources, such as storage and processors, can then be redirected based on business needs.

To date, 4G "network slicing" has involved either fixed-line or 4G wireless networks to make critical communications more effective for specific user groups like public service organizations. By contrast, a 5G network slice could (as an example) someday support autonomous forklifts in a factory to ensure that forklift operators remain safe even when there is a surge of communications traffic from other areas in the factory. 

Considerations for effective 5G network slicing deployment

As beneficial as 5G network slicing can be, it isn't without a few challenges. It's crucial that your team can manage those complications.

For example, as a team, you'll need to ensure that applications are aligned to the right service level—and therefore network slice—and measure the actual performance to see that it delivers. Another potential challenge lies in deciding how many slices are adequate for customers' service needs. Overprovisioning or underprovisioning slices could create unnecessary complexities in managing a customer’s overall network and operations.

Reaping the rewards

With 5G architectures in place, providers should be able to  delegate portions of their network someday to meet their customers' specific needs, scaling services up or down (to take various examples) to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) in a manufacturing environment, connect and operate autonomous vehicles in a transport fleet, or separate point-of-sale information from a hotel guest Wi-Fi network.

Diverse use cases are a key characteristic of the 5G era, so that it's not just about faster connectivity for smartphones. The truly transformative elements of 5G will be in the details, from connecting IoT to artful slicing of a network to better serve the needs of users. 

Network slicing allows for massive scaling of available bandwidth to accommodate new functions without degrading existing, latency-sensitive operations. For example, if a contact center added a recording and transcription feature to an existing customer support system, they could put it on its own virtual network to accommodate more data without compromising the primary voice network's performance.

Building a cross-discipline team

Use cases for 5G network slicing will be as diverse as the skill sets needed to effectively implement it.

Because you're creating separate virtual networks, early adopters will need to leverage network specialists who are comfortable with SDN and NFV to help implement the mobile network slicing. These two processes are foundational elements that efficiently merge physical infrastructure with virtual resources. As a part of this evolution, mobile network slicing will eventually intersect with traditional IT networking as edge computing connects with centralized data centers.

Because each partition has unique requirements, security is more critical than ever. It's wise to follow traditional cybersecurity best practices, especially when combining new paradigms specific to mobile network slicing.

Even though network slicing and 5G are still in the early stages, seed your team with a mix of expertise and knowledge. Varied skills will be essential when establishing early applications and metrics to understand how well it's working for your organization and your customers. And because the bulk of architecture and maintenance will fall on the network provider, choosing the right partner will prove an essential step in building a solid team.

Learn more about Verizon 5G and how network solutions can help you build a more efficient business.  Verizon 5G is currently available only in parts of select cities in the United States.