The benefits of
network slicing:
flexibility and more

Author: Heidi Vella

When it comes to businesses' technology needs, one size rarely fits all. Take networking, for example. Depending on a company's size, services and operations, it may have different latency, bandwidth and security requirements from another. These may even differ among one company's various departments and processes.

Enter network slicing—one of the key capabilities of the fifth-generation cellular network (5G). The benefits of network slicing include the potential to transform businesses' operations by tailoring networking specifications to specific tasks to improve efficiency, performance and flexibility, while also creating new revenue opportunities.

What is network slicing?

Network slicing allows multiple logical networks to be created on top of a common shared physical network. Essentially this means segmenting parts of the network for different users and/or use cases. Each "slice" is an isolated end-to-end network that can be tailored—assigned more spectrum or bandwidth—and adjusted to the requirements of its particular application, even in real time. Importantly, because each slice is logically separate, the traffic from one does not interfere with that of another.

Typically, dedicated networking such as this has been used by emergency services to ensure continued and prioritized access. However, 4G and 5G lend themselves much more easily to being sliced, making the capability more accessible.

How does slicing enable a more flexible network?

Central among the benefits of network slicing are embedding flexibility and agility into business operations. Segments can be sliced and configured as required without needing to set up a new network. This gives operators the flexibility to host a diverse range of service requirements for various use cases over a single network, adapting, adding and configuring as needed. For example, utility metering that is static and has low requirements can be operated under one slice while autonomous forklift trucks requiring real-time data transfer and priority access to the network run on another.

An additional advantage of network slicing is the ability to add extra security measures to particular slices that handle more critical applications, such as autonomous trucks, something not afforded by Wi-Fi. Unlike 4G or 5G cellular networks, Wi-Fi is shared with others on the spectrum, and therefore it's not possible to prioritize network access to certain functions and devices, as it is with 5G (and to a lesser extent 4G). Furthermore, network slicing is more resilient to cyber attacks because breaches can be contained in one slice and prevented from affecting other parts of the network.

Looking to the fully 5G-enabled future, slicing will be pivotal in enabling operators to support new technical use cases afforded by the fast speeds and low latency of the 5G network, such as autonomous cars.

How can the flexibility enabled by network slicing benefit your business?

The flexibility of network slicing offers a myriad of benefits for businesses.

Support the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies

Enabling businesses to utilize the full range of IoT capabilities will be one of the key benefits of 5G and network segmenting. The capability can provide a dedicated and contained part of the network to fully control and support critical IoT solutions with reliable communications and guaranteed quality of service. This will be paramount for certain applications, such as wireless autonomous machines on factory floors. Without the super speeds and low latency of 5G and the assurance of a cost-effective, dedicated network, supporting such real time automated factory applications might prove somewhat operationally infeasible.

Take advantage of new revenue streams

Continuing with the manufacturing example, if 5G and network segmenting are a catalyst for wireless robotics adoption for production lines, this could, in turn, result in new services being offered. For example, manufacturers could more easily transform factory lines to produce different or bespoke goods from one day to the next, ramping up revenue opportunities.

Similarly, companies can use IoT, cloud data streams, device connectivity and network slicing to manage and charge for different capacities and capabilities. Furthermore, the ability to quickly make changes and configure a network to support different use cases and services will allow companies to take up new revenue opportunities as they arise.

Reduce costs

Wireless autonomous machines can eventually reduce a business's overall operating costs; network slicing can support their adoption.

Improve performance

Dedicating part of a network to one task or group of people will further improve speed and latency by removing competition from other processes. This can be particularly important for media and creative industries that depend on very high-capacity and fast communication. What's more, slicing enables operators to add and take away this capability as and when needed without being prohibitively expensive or time-consuming.

Protecting sensitive data

If a company is handling sensitive data using slicing, that data can be sent over different chunks of the network to safeguard privacy. This capability can be brought in for specific projects and then removed when they're finished.

5G network slicing

5G network slicing is the most cost-effective model for network differentiation and has the potential to be game-changing for many industries. As the adoption of 5G and other complementary technologies increases, the capability will no doubt support a new generation of agile and innovative companies.

Learn how Verizon's 5G network can transform your business.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.