Network slicing has become a popular topic in telecoms discussions, particularly in relation to the benefits of 5G for industrial or business applications. It is believed to improve the reliability and performance of connectivity in situations where network congestion or mission-critical operations are at stake. With the rollout of 5G Standalone, network slicing is becoming an increasingly important aspect of B2B installations.
The technology behind network slicing is all about dividing a single physical network into multiple virtual networks, each tailored to meet specific requirements. Kelvin Chaffer, CEO at Lifecycle Software, explains that each “slice” is an isolated end-to-end network that can be customized for different applications, services, or customers. Network slicing leverages technologies like Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) to dynamically manage and allocate network resources, and orchestration to manage the lifecycle of slices.
A Vodafone spokesperson highlights that network slicing can be achieved on older network standards, such as 4G, but points out that it is a new capability envisioned for 5G Standalone. Mika Uusitalo, Head of New Technologies and Innovations at Nokia, gives a more detailed look into the technology, stating that network slicing enables CSPs to create virtual, independent networks or “slices” within the same physical network, connecting from the devices across RAN-Transport-Core to the application. Each slice can have independent network performance, quality, security, routing capabilities, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in line with customer needs, helping CSPs to use their network assets more flexibly.
Network slicing ensures specific customers or services have access in congested situations, like during large-scale events. Uusitalo provides various examples of potential uses for network slicing, from 4G/5G Virtual Private Networks to Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) slicing services for home offices or smart homes. Network slicing has been deployed in real-life situations, such as in smart grids, automated railways, mining, ports, robotics, and augmented reality (AR) in factories. Senior Principal Analyst at Omdia, Sameer Malik, emphasizes that network slicing can benefit several industrial sectors, including healthcare, financial institutions, logistics, and manufacturing, where they require guaranteed bandwidth, deterministic experience, and controlled latency for their processes.
However, Senior Principal Analyst at Omdia, Guang Yang, sees 5G Standalone as more fundamental to network slicing, arguing that the technology must be deployed to provide network slicing services. Challenges include system interoperability in a multi-vendor environment and the need for collaboration between device vendors, chipset suppliers, operating system providers, network infrastructure vendors, and application developers.
In terms of market size, Chaffer cites a report estimating that the network slicing market will reach $1.2 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of over 50% from 2019. The actual market size will depend on factors like the pace of 5G rollout, the adoption of network