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BT Newsbyte
BT's quarterly newsletter for analysts, consultants and investors - Issue 43 - March 2017

'Network slicing' - agile support of services over 5G networks

Howard WatsonBy Howard Watson, CEO of BT's Technology, Service & Operations division

BT and Huawei are researching how 'network slicing' may be used to support services delivered over tomorrow's 5G networks. The work builds on the wide-ranging 5G collaboration agreement we have and marks the first area of specific research activity for the team, based at the BT Labs in Adastral Park near Ipswich, and in other locations across the UK.

Network slicing allows specific partitions within an IP-based network to be ring-fenced for particular activities. It's an approach that's designed to make us more agile and flexible in meeting customers' needs. The key benefits are:

  • Flexibility – dynamic sharing of resources;
  • Reliability – services can be isolated to run smoothly; and
  • Optimisation – fine-tuning functionality to suit a specific purpose.

Network slicing allows individual services to remain unaffected by bandwidth demands on the network as a whole, and to have specific policies applied to the traffic being carried over that slice – this is especially relevant when those services are mission-critical.

For example, in a live music event, specific 5G slices could be created for outside broadcast use, ensuring that the live TV feed from the event remains unaffected, even as thousands of people in the concert start to stream videos to friends and family over the network.

New 5G slices can also be created in an agile way according to customer needs. In the above scenario, in the event of an emergency in the crowd, a new slice could be created which is dedicated to the safety control teams, allowing them for example to command a drone and gain an aerial view of the incident.

Customers are increasingly demanding converged networks that deliver a mix of flexibility, reliability and optimisation. It's our role to ensure that our fixed and mobile networks deliver the best possible experience for customers, regardless of the demands placed on them.

That's why we're excited about the possibilities of this stream of research with Huawei, and the added flexibility network slicing may offer, allowing us to better serve specific customer needs as we move towards a 5G world.

For more information and to view an animated demonstration of 5G network slicing, visit here.