Today’s mobile networks are essentially designed to provide coverage and capacity for all connected users, devices and services. They compete for the same resources, but this generally works, for much of the time. In essence, they have been optimised for a single service – mobile broadband. However, as services have proliferated, it’s become clear that the network needs to evolve to enable different services, with different needs to be delivered, consistently. In addition to other advances, this capability to support multiple differentiated services is what the next generation of mobile network technology, 5G, will unlock.
5G is designed to enable a range of different classes of services to run on the same network, enabling it to serve the needs of, for example, both mobile consumers and the millions of M2M / IoT devices that are expected to be deployed. It capitalises on a new technique, called Network Slicing, to enable different network resources to be allocated to different users and applications. Ultimately, this is intended to allow new network partners to reserve their portion or slice of the network and for entirely new forms of service to be delivered. It’s anticipated that this will bring new stakeholders to the ecosystem – for example, a car manufacturer that wishes to offer its customers a specific set of service packages that can be delivered wirelessly, or for a public safety (e.g. ambulance services) network to share the same network as commercial services.
So far, so exciting. But, network slicing exists today and has already been demonstrated at length. However, the problem of commercialising network slicing (and thus justifying investments) remains. Possibilities are one thing, but reality is another.
Research from Bell Labs points to a promising future – according to a recent article
, mobile consumers would be prepared to pay up to 15% more for a premium experience. In other words, one in which they received a specific service quality – which is just what network slicing can deliver. However, most current thinking about network slicing sees it as a semi-permanent affair, with slices being created and then remaining in place. Such an approach is limiting, as it will inevitably lead to inefficient use of resources.
The answer, of course, is to make it dynamic. With dynamic network slicing, resources are allocated on-demand, only when required, and then removed when they are no longer needed. That’s what we do.
gQoE, our unique technology, capitalises on dynamic network slicing to sequester network resources for a specific session, or device, but only when they are necessary to ensure that they perform at the right level. So, a premium customer could be given the resources when they are otherwise unavailable, while they remain unallocated when they do not need them. It’s more efficient, more scalable and more interesting, as it creates many more monetisation opportunities.
The way to make money from network slicing is to take a dynamic approach, ensuring that resources are allocated when conditions demand them and them removing them when they are not. It means that mobile network operators can switch it on, when they need to and that they can deliver services, at scale. So, to use Bell Labs’ example, we can enable a service that can be offered at a premium over and above current levels, generating new revenue streams and, for the first time, reversing the downward pressure on prices.
Our approach is the only way to guarantee, not just service performance, but also revenue. Other approaches are uncertain; gQoE and the dynamic network slicing it leverages provide certainty and the ROI that is required to fuel the next phase of network evolution – but which can also be delivered today.