Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Nokia Launches Fixed Network "Network Slicing"

In a move with huge potential implications, Nokia has launched its fixed access network slicing solution, allowing fixed network service providers to create virtual networks as mobile operators will be able to do on their 5G platforms.

That might potentially enable full control of virtual networks that allow many new providers (app providers, platform providers, device suppliers, mobile virtual network operators, content providers) to essentially create their own national or global networks quickly and flexibly, with differentiated network features, to an extent.

Sure, entities have been able to construct private networks using traditional wholesale purchase agreements. But network slicing should allow faster, easier, more flexible flow-through networks all the way to the network edge. Over time, such virtual networks also should be less costly.

Network slicing allows fixed network operators to “scale to a virtually unlimited number of discrete network slices that can be independently operated, for example to run 5G mobile transport, wholesale or business services,” says Nokia.

A network slice is a logical network partition, defined within an operator network, that
can be dynamically created to meet certain SLA criteria (latency, reliability, throughput, geography).

Such virtual networks flow through the core network up to the optical network terminal or customer premises equipment. In other words, a full end-to-end virtual network is possible.

That means full control and autonomy is provided for each slice, with possibly-differentiated performance metrics for the network and services for the user of each slice. Network slicing is a product of the use of software defined networks and network functions virtualization (SDN/NFV)

In principle, network slices can be used by the network operator or any wholesale customer. The new solution is built around Nokia's cloud-native software platform Altiplano and open standards.  

Network slicing accomplishes in software much of what has traditionally been known as “wholesale,” where retail customers purchase the use of capacity from network owners.

Historically, such wholesale services have represented as much as 11 percent of total telecom service provider revenue, according to Ovum. That suggests revenue of perhaps $213 billion in 2021, Ovum predicts.

Essentially, Nokia says, network slicing creates a full Network as a Service (NaaS) offer for third parties that arguably provides a richer “own your own network” capability, compared to traditional spatial, spectral or temporal sharing techniques.

Business models might reflect historic preferences in each market. Some service providers, operating in markets where there is high reliance on wholesale, might extend NaaS using network slicing.

In other markets, where wholesale is less preferred, network operators likely will try and create new retail services that take advantage of network slicing.

Nokia's programmable slicing solution creates virtual slices that look, feel and operate just like a physical network, the company says.

“Each service provider runs its own dedicated controller with a dedicated view of their slice of the network,” says Nokia.

That might well create new opportunities for any entities that formerly might have considered becoming a mobile virtual network operator or a private network operator in the fixed network realm.

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