End-to-end network slicing is key to enabling net neutrality in the 5G era, according to Chinese telecom vendor ZTE.
ZTE proposes that operators can use the technology of network slicing to work as virtual private network (VPN) for different types of terminals. In one network slicing, net neutrality access policy can be adopted for the same type of terminals. However, operators can use a predefined policy to dynamically adjust the resource allocation between network slices for different types of terminals, so as to ensure those terminals for public interest or human beings can have priority network access in case of network congestion.
"5G end-to-end network slicing integrates SDN/NFV, cloud, orchestration and related technologies to help enterprises of different types and sizes to have their own service-Level agreement (SLA) guaranteed VPN/slice at an affordable price," said Jiashun Tu, Chief Scientist of NFV/SDN, ZTE.
In the past, the only way for the enterprises to have a private mobile network was to build a physical network and set up a professional network operation team. "Only the super large enterprises, army and government could afford to build such a private mobile network," said Jiashun Tu. "On the other hand, due to the regulation of frequency, normally such a physical mobile network has to be a national wide network, which is not suitable for some regional and small-scale enterprises. 5G end-to-end network slicing will meet the demand for private networks, while bringing more competitiveness to thousands of 5G services because of more affordable costs and better end-to-end user experience."
The executive also highlighted that network slicing provides a way to divide a physical network into multiple virtual networks with SLA. Operators can adjust the dynamic resource proportion of different network slice to define the SLA dynamically. In fact, this provides SLA for users in different network slice, which is contrary to the existing net neutrality principle. But such a dynamically adjusted classified net neutrality principle will actually better promote network equality and improve the utilization efficiency of frequency resources, when the network transforms to ubiquitous 5G network with hundreds of millions of human, robots and IoT terminals.
Although 5G claims to provide ten times network performance compared with 4G, 5G will still have to face the scene of resource conflict due to the access of more terminals of IoT. Some typical 5G applications, such as industrial control, autonomous driving and telesurgery, need absolute SLA assurance from the network, otherwise it will bring huge economic losses and even casualties. While other typical 5G applications, such as online video, do not have too many requirements for reliability, but are more sensitive to the economy of network services. Thus, the traditional sense of network neutrality needs to be extended to adapt to the new 5G scenario. With the development of 5G network, the limitation of resource such as frequency, transmission and base station site space for tens of billions of things and human will lead to the bottleneck of the development of human society. So the only solution is to use 5G network slicing as VPN with high resource utilization to replace the physical private network gradually. It is the best solution to give as many resources as possible for the operator to run a public telco network, and then use network slicing technology to provide VPN for different 5G services.
ZTE also highlighted that cloud capabilities closer to the end user can provide a faster response to the service. "Usually, automatic control service, autonomous driving requires a low-latency and reliable network (uRLLC). Compared with the normal central cloud, MEC avoids transmitting a large amount of information to the central cloud. First, this saves backhaul resources," Jiashun Tu said. "Secondly, it avoids security risks caused by long-distance multi-hop transmission. Thirdly, the reduction of processing points is also conducive to improving reliability," the executive added.
For 5G, cloud technology and virtualization technology have completely changed the core network. Virtualization technology makes the core network more flexible and economical. Compared with 4G, 5G requires more sites and more flexible network access modes. Therefore, virtualization of RAN is also a trend. Currently, the CU defined by 3GPP can be a virtualized network element. MEC will be a platform to support the smooth evolution of virtualized RAN. It can be imagined that in the future, with the popularization of MEC, it will form a ubiquitous cloud infrastructure together with centre cloud, and 5G itself will evolve into an application on this ubiquitous cloud.
ZTE also explained the concept of Cloudify 5G and what are the main benefits of this for telecom operators. Cloudify 5G is composed of a virtualized core network, software defined network (SDN) transmission, and virtualized RAN. At present, the core network already supports softwarization, the transmission network also supports software definition, and the newly introduced MEC needs to support future RAN evolution. When the RAN evolves into a virtualized RAN on the MEC platform in the future, Cloudify 5G will become a typical service and capability on the cloud (PaaS and SaaS). Operators will realize the transformation from a communication service provider (CSP) to a digital service provider (DSP). The challenge is that existing cloud providers are also transitioning in this direction through another path (adding 5G to their existing clouds).