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network slicing

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Network slicing is the separation of multiple virtual networks that operate on the same physical hardware for different applications, services or purposes. This form of virtual network architecture combines principles behind software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) on a fixed network to increase flexibility.

Network slicing separates the control plane (CP) from the user plane to move user plane functionality towards the network edge. Each network slice can have its own architecture, provisioning management and security that supports a particular use case. Functions such as speed, capacity, connectivity and coverage are allocated to meet the requirements of its primary objective.  

Providing the connection has low latency and adequate bandwidth, the prioritization of different tasks can be performed on a software level division of the network. The slices that occupy a single physical network are separated, meaning traffic and security breaches from one slice cannot interfere with another slice.

One use case of network slicing is cellular vehicle-to-infrastructure communication (C-V2X). At the same time passengers might be watching a high-bandwidth movie, for example, their car maybe sending crucial data that requires low-latency for autonomous driving.

Network slicing is a main feature of 5G networks used to optimize allocation of resources and increase cost and energy efficiencies. In 5G networks, one physical network will often be virtually separated into multiple radio access networks (RANs). Alternatively a single RAN might connect a number of services. This model allows 5G network operators to choose the characteristics needed for different capabilities such as connection density, spectrum efficiency and traffic capacity.

This was last updated in December 2018

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