Network slicing benefits fixed-access networks, even though it's most commonly associated with 5G infrastructure.
The virtualization architecture adopts the same principles as software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). Network slicing enables operators to create multiple virtual networks atop a common, shared physical infrastructure that they then can customize to meet the specific requirements of services, customers, applications or devices.
The market for network slicing is predicted to reach $302.2 million by 2022 from $112.3 million 2017, galloping along at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 22%, according to a November 2017 MarketsandMarkets report.
"The major forces driving the growth of the network slicing market include the increasing demand for broadband services over mobile networks, virtualization of networks, significant growth in the mobile data traffic volumes and the rising demand for high-speed and large network coverage," the research firm wrote. "Moreover, the rising adoption rate of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices and agile networks are also expected to drive the market growth."
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Network slicing helps operators meet service level agreements (SLAs), Brian Lavallée, senior director of Solutions Marketing at Ciena told Broadband World News. It also helps fixed-access wireline operators address capacity issues when designing networks: After all, if they deploy a network designed for peak usage, most of the time the network is under-used, he said. But if a service provider creates a network with its lowest usage times in mind, then peak hours or unforeseen usage demands around emergencies or other unexpected drivers can generate outages and unhappy customers, added Lavallée.
During Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, BT participated in ADVA Optical Networking's demonstration of end-to-end, multi-layer transport network slicing and assurance for 5G and edge computing.
"By showcasing an architecture for wholesale services that can be efficiently reconfigured across all network layers through SDN control, we're taking a big step forward," said Maria Cuevas, BT's head of mobile core network research in a statement at the time. "But this demonstration is really just the start of an intense period of research into network slicing."
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Vodafone, too, is testing out fixed-access network slicing, partnering with Huawei on a successful trial that virtually partitioned fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network bandwidth, the vendor said. Using network slicing and FTTH, Vodafone separately divided and controlled different slices of the bandwidth for services, to allow multiple uses within open access FTTH or other applications, according to Huawei.
Vodafone Ireland created consumer and enterprise virtual network slices on a live FTTH network; the consumer slice sent broadband Internet and Vodafone TV services, while the enterprise slice carried OneNet business services.
"Virtualization of the fixed access network will help us build and fill FTTH networks in a more cost-effective way that takes advantage of new operating models where both Vodafone and its deployment partners are able to differentiate their services over the shared fiber infrastructure," said Matt Beal, director of Strategy & Architecture for Vodafone Group Technology, in a statement.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.