Near-real time remote collaboration can be possible with 5G network slicing
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5G network slicing is anticipated to be a key transformational element of the next-generation network—and it promises to revolutionize remote collaboration to achieve things that are not possible with today's networks.
Network slicing segments 5G architecture into independent, tailored, end-to-end networks that could fulfill diverse requirements without affecting overall network performance. Theoretically, you could deploy as many slices as you need to optimize your operations.
The key benefits of network slicing include prioritizing and running critical, data-intensive functions in real time without interruption—essentially enabling the integration of state-of-the-art technologies that take full advantage of the ultra-low latency and increased bandwidth that 5G offers.
As businesses look to extend the boundaries of safe and effective remote collaboration, they will need applications that require essentially instantaneous data transfer—applications like virtual and augmented reality and autonomous heavy machinery. 5G network slicing is the key that should unlock that capability.
Network needs for near-real time remote collaboration
Imagine an orchestra performing a symphony remotely, with every musician in a different location. To perform at their best, each musician would need to see the conductor and hear the rest of the musicians in real time, without delay. Any significant lag would ruin the entire performance.
Near-real time remote collaboration works the same way. Only continuous, near-real time reactions and essentially full synchronicity will do. Delays and network hiccups can render technologies like virtual reality (VR) experiences ineffective—much like the lag-affected orchestra.
5G network slicing is a network architecture that is expected to be able to deliver the speeds needed for near-real time collaboration. By slicing the network and dedicating each segment to a specific purpose, each network slice can have dedicated bandwidth and network nodes. That means it could take full advantage of the low latency and increased bandwidth that 5G provides without being compromised by other, less important traffic. Performance is almost guaranteed—something standard networks cannot achieve.
Additional benefits of network slicing include optimizing and tailoring the network as needed. For example, each slice might have varying levels of storage capacity, controls could be input to limit who can access it and it may serve only for one or two key functions.
5G network slicing and the virtual environment
The specifications of network slicing and a number of key attributes of 5G networks—such as ultra-low latency and increased bandwidth—are ideal for large-scale deployment of transformative technologies.
Applications like holograms, high-definition video, industrial automation and virtual and augmented reality can support remote collaboration in novel ways. These technologies could become increasingly important as companies continue to work to support a distributed staff and search for a competitive edge through new business opportunities and reduced travel expenditures and carbon emissions.
VR training could help onboard or upskill employees remotely, giving them lifelike hands-on experience with heavy machinery in a safe environment. Oil, gas and other utility enterprises can deploy this technology to help reduce the time and costs of employee training programs.
Augmented reality (AR) could help engineers in the field share what they see with experienced staff at headquarters—or in their own homes—who can provide expert advice as though they were shoulder-to-shoulder with their colleagues. Surgeons could perform or guide operations remotely with real-time haptic feedback applications.
Colleagues can collaborate on design and architectural problem-solving through VR, holograms and digital twin technologies, all supported by state-of-the-art audio-visual technology and 5G. Broadcasters could wirelessly cover live sporting events—and do so without expensive production equipment, long setup times or a large workforce.
An ultra-reliable and resilient network is necessary for each of these applications—and especially for VR, which requires high levels of computing power. Dedicating a network slice to VR could not only ensure seamless performance but maintain business as usual for the rest of the network.
A 5G connection could not only make these remote collaboration applications only possible but accessible—and without prohibitive upfront costs—to people dispersed geographically. 5G's network slicing capabilities could help businesses deliver services and applications tailored to their customers' needs, using specific criteria like latency and security to segment traffic and separate virtual networks.
Preparing your business for the benefits of network slicing
Network slicing promises to provide benefits for transformative business opportunities and for remote collaboration—and it's never too soon to prepare your IT infrastructure for the inevitable integration. The more prepared you are for 5G and mobile edge computing, the easier the transition will be—and the faster you will realize benefits and competitive advantages.
A good place to start is by understanding that network slicing is a type of virtual networking technology that leverages network function virtualization and software-defined networking. To accelerate the 5G transformation journey, IT influencers can shift business networks to software-based automation.
Companies that already utilize the cloud and have adopted some Internet of Things applications will be better positioned to take the leap into 5G network slicing and VR and AR integration. Educating staff about emerging technologies and teaching employees how to use new tools as they are adopted will also be paramount.
You can build and slice private networks yourself—if your organization is willing to invest the time and money. Working with a trusted managed service provider can help distribute that cost over time. It can also guarantee quality service and add value to delivery, monitoring, security and legacy infrastructure management.
Service providers are the experts, and the right one can help your organization create a powerful, future-proof digital workplace where colleagues seamlessly communicate, collaborate and connect—wherever they are.