Service providers around the world are investing in 5G aggressively. They are trialing new networks, leveraging SDN/NFV technologies and finding ways to open new revenue streams, especially in business verticals. The concern, however, is that sophisticated 5G services may not materialize unless service providers are able to slice the network in a way that allows specific network characteristics to be assigned for each type of service across the entire network. Specific attributes, like bandwidth and latency, must be configurable for each network slice. Furthermore, each slice must guarantee optimized service performance and help fulfill SLAs.
Network slicing is not a new concept. It can be done today in limited ways in existing networks. Typically, network slicing is only considered on a service-class basis in which services are mapped manually into three or four network slices. But new, 5G-based IoT services will have many different attributes and need to be treated individually in order to optimize network consumption. That means a single network may support tens of thousands of slices. Such massive scale will require the entire process to be automated, from fulfillment to assurance.
The foundational component required to create and manage network slices from end to end is service orchestration. With efficient service orchestration capabilities, service-specific network slices can be automated across all network boundaries in legacy, mobile, fixed and even software-defined networks.
Service orchestration is well-understood in existing networks and is being introduced into new, virtualized networks. However, the impact of 5G on service orchestration and network slicing has not yet been fully explored. There have been many proofs of concept and much research around 5G’s radio aspects, but little has been done to address service operations. As 5G becomes a reality, many service providers will recognize the need for solutions that deliver service orchestration and facilitate the end-to-end management of network slices.
Netcracker’s comprehensive service orchestration capabilities were on display in the TM Forum Live! 2017 Catalyst 5G Service Operations: Closed Loop Assurance of 5G Network Slices. Six leading service providers championed the project, including AT&T, BT, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telenor and Vodafone. The goal of the Catalyst was to fully explore the readiness of operational technology to enable 5G-based IoT services. Throughout the Catalyst, NEC/Netcracker showcased how efficient service orchestration is the critical component in creating, managing and automating network slices across all network boundaries, including mobile, fixed, SDN and legacy networks.
NEC/Netcracker is at the forefront of ensuring that 5G operations can support the needs of new IoT services that require specific SLA characteristics enabled by end-to-end network slices.
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