How to deliver services based on 5G network slicing

This is an excerpt from our new report delving into network slicing – Monetizing 5G slicing: Turning a game-changing concept into an operational reality. Download the report for the full insight.

A key benefit of 5G slicing is that it allows communications service providers (CSPs) to monetize varying levels of service. For example, they can price based on guarantees of availability, level of quality, level of security, throughput, latency and many other performance indicators. Operators’ biggest decision, in fact, may be which service model to offer.

To monetize services based on slicing, CSPs can provide guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs) based on customized performance metrics, such as quality of service, or they can offer network slicing as a service (NSaaS), which builds slice templates with tailored characteristics to support a specific service. For customized performance metrics, operators need to decide how many to support individually and how much to charge for them. For NSaaS, they must create slice templates, which are models based on users’ requirements and applications that are mapped to the network resources required to support them. Operators also must build self-service capabilities for customers to consume these slices on demand for indefinite periods of time and create pricing mechanisms.

Massimo Banzi, Senior Standardization Manager, Telecom Italia, thinks CSPs will monetize 5G slicing using the NSaaS option. “It has to be as a service because we are talking about services that cross nations and cross operators,” he says. “That takes collaboration.”

This collaboration must include pre-defined agreements between the parties involved in delivering an end-to-end service. Such agreements need to spell out which participant is responsible for provisioning and orchestrating a service, providing the connectivity on demand and managing the business arrangements, Banzi explains. They also need to define suitable APIs that automate workflows to activate services on demand.

“We are not ready yet,” he says. TIM expects to support static 5G slicing beginning this summer, connecting various universities in Milan and Paris, he adds, but true dynamic slicing is not possible yet because it requires automation.

Emerging 5G standards – The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the rollout of 5G is uncertain. CSPs and governments could decide to pull back from capital investment in anticipation of lost revenue and slower growth, or they could follow the lead of Singapore and move straight to deploying standalone 5G in anticipation of economic recovery. CSPs may need to do the same when it comes to 5G network slicing: plan for a high-demand future and leapfrog to an operations environment that can monetize slicing.

Mapping requirements – By mapping customers’ requirements to services and then mapping services to slice templates, CSPs hope to shield users from the complexity of the underlying technology, which will make services based on slicing much easier to design, put into a catalog and sell. The graphic below from a TM Forum exploratory report called Focus on services not slices illustrates how service-to-slice mapping would work. The key points are that services aren’t necessarily mapped 1:1 with slice types and that users may use multiple services.

“It is dangerous to assume 1:1 relationships, as happens when people talk about services and slices interchangeably,” says Dave Milham, Chief Architect, Service Provider Engagement, TM Forum

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