Slicing and splicing the 5G network

via Flickr ©  pj_vanf (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © pj_vanf (CC BY 2.0)

  • Government backed 5G-ENCODE project is embarking on Phase 2 of its mission to develop 5G sliced networks
  • The effort is based on open standards, and the software is compatible with O-RAN 
  • The results of Phase 1 will be revealed next month

5G-ENCODE, the UK government-backed project that seeks to push 5G applications forward, says it has announced the world's first ‘slicing’ of an industrial 5G network with the switch-on of the second phase of its private network. 

The first phase saw 4G “establish a baseline” against which 5G technologies could be compared. The next phase will see the 5G impact quantified according to how well it can be made to meet specific industrial use cases - augmented reality and virtual reality to support design, manufacturing and training; monitoring and tracking time sensitive assets; and wireless real-time in-process monitoring and analytics and so on. 

Slicing: the 5G network holy grail

Network slicing is often heralded as one of the real pay-offs for 5G. Through it, 5G operators will be able to engineer the all-important virtual networks capable of meeting various industrial and other high performance requirements over the one network infrastructure. 

Within any manufacturing environment, there are multiple tools and machines all requiring different levels of connectivity with varying degrees of latency and throughput, slicing describes the way those virtual networks will be differentiated by the application of qualities like lower latency, rock solid reliability, ultra-low jitter, security and so on. These qualities will be applied selectively to data streams to meet specific application requirements in the industrial environment - every stream being matched with a network treatment to make it fit for its specific task. 

Some streams will be highly demanding and therefore likely more expensive to use, others less so. 

A big part of the 5G ENCODE project’s success so far is being attributed to the deployment of network slicing and splicing technology developed by consortium partner, Zeetta Networks. 

Slicing and splicing technology enables operators to create multiple virtual networks that can be customised according to specific services and traffic levels needed. The network can therefore be optimised to meet the needs of different processes to improve efficiency, performance and business output.

“For the first time in the world, an industrial 5G network can not only be customised and divided into multiple logical networks, but each of those virtual networks can be extended across a transport network to reach another virtual network in a completely different administrative domain,” explains Vassilis Seferidis, Founder and CEO, Zeetta Networks,

So as part of the phase two network deployment Zeetta and partners have created a new network slice by stitching together slices from one transport network and two separate private networks: one located at NCC HQ and the other at another facility at NCCI located several miles away from the first location. 

The effort is based on open standards, and the software is compatible with O-RAN (Open Radio Access Networks) and other open networking technologies, making it both technology and vendor agnostic. This approach supports the UK government’s 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy, which advocates deployment models based on open interfaces and interoperable standards for the telecoms industry.

The results of the 4G phase one trial will be revealed at a ‘phase two launch event’ at the NCC in October 2021.

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