5G and Network Slicing: Future Networks at MWCA17

Network Slicing Increasingly Central to 5G Vision


September 2017

Click here to download the slides from this seminar.


Network slicing is likely to prove the single most important step towards making 5G a commercial success. As we look ahead to the realisation of 5G, we must ask ourselves the question required of any major development in the industry: the technological promise may be there, but how can it be delivered in such a way that makes it viable?

Delegates gathered at the Future Networks Seminar at the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in San Francisco earlier this month to discuss bringing this about. A panel featuring representatives from Nokia and Cisco, as well as experts from Deutsche Telekom, AT&T and Gemalto, led the discussion on making 5G work for vertical industries. Verticals are expected to provide the greatest demand for 5G, and as such its success depends largely on their business satisfaction with it.

Henry Calvert explained that 5G is not just about superfast mobile broadband, though it will certainly provide that. From 2020 we can expect to see productivity in the industry increase at an unprecedented rate, thanks to the range of developments 5G will make possible, such as ultra-low latency communications and Massive IoT. The principal challenge facing the industry now is how to make bringing the advantages 5G promises economical. “How,” Mr Calvert asked, “can we connect the vertical industries effectively to this infrastructure, in a way that makes good business sense for all involved?”

The answer to this will come through network slicing. As Humberto La Roche, Principal Engineer at the CTO office in Cisco puts it, network slicing is fundamentally an end-to-end partitioning of the network resources and network functions so that selected applications/services/ connections may run in isolation from each other.

Network slicing means operators can essentially create a private network tailored to each client’s specific requirements unlocking innovation and agility. While ostensibly this may sound complicated, the effect will in fact be the reverse: it will allow operators to simplify dramatically what they actually configure and sell. Another deployment model for network slicing envisages that rather than having to customise each individual network slice, operators can provide customers with the tools needed to do so themselves.

Doug Eng, Technical Architect of Wireless Network Architecture and Design at AT&T, put this into striking context for the session. “At AT&T, we’ve been selling around 4,000 different business packages with 3G & 4G. When 5G arrives, we think we can drastically reduce that number.” Few innovations can offer to streamline production to 0.25% of its former complexity, but with 5G one of the Big Four US operators expects just that.

So how can the success of this model be ensured? Nico Bayer, Senior Project Manager at Deutsche Telekom and Chair of the GSMA’s Network Slicing Task Force, explained that recent work has been focussed on setting industry-wide recognition of what slicing means. With agreed standards on what goes into slicing, and what vertical industries can expect from it, those verticals can begin to plan what use they intend to make of 5G in earnest. With revenues from traditional sources such as voice calls and SMS much reduced in recent years, the industry’s focus will increasingly turn to network access to make positive returns on investment. And with agreed specifications of slicing in hand, we can take discussions forward with vertical partners more productively in the months and years ahead, to better understand their needs, and how we as an industry can work to meet them.

How to find out more:


  • Speaker presentations are now available. To download the slides from this seminar, please click here.
  • For more information on the Future Networks programme, including RCS, 4G evolution and 5G, please click here.