Enterprise Digital Transformation Requires Diverse Types of Connectivity Over a Single Network
When we visit a modern enterprise, we often see diverse digital applications in its daily operation and production activities, such as unified communications and collaboration, data analytics and prediction, remote monitoring and control, and so on. All these applications require reliable and efficient connectivity but often have different requirements for bandwidth, latency, reliability, and power consumption. Traditionally, an enterprise needs to deploy multiple systems to meet the diverse connectivity requirements, for example, a wireless broadband network for the workforce’s portable devices, low-power Internet of Things (IoT) technology for data collection, and wireline connections for ultra-reliable communications. This multi-silo approach will significantly increase the complexity and cost of IT architecture when digital transformation moves to the enterprise’s core operation and production processes.
A 5G system—with enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive IoT, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communication (URLLC) capabilities—can meet the diverse requirements with a single network infrastructure. These capabilities can help enterprises accelerate digital transformation efficiently, while a new feature in 5G standards will be required to fully leverage these capabilities, and that is network slicing.
Network Slicing’s Concept and Standardization
Network slicing is one of the key features of 5G standalone (SA) architecture and can enable a set of logical network topologies (slices) on a single shared physical network infrastructure. A network slice can be a logically separated and self-contained part of the network. Each slice can have a dedicated quality of service (QoS) setting for speed, latency, and reliability. Therefore, the network-slicing function can guarantee the QoS of multiple services over a single physical network, which is critical for enterprise 5G deployment and can be a foundation of the enterprise’s digital transformation.
Figure 1: Illustration of 5G network slicing
The 5G network-slicing function was standardized in 3GPP Release 15 and has been further enhanced in Release 16. The standardization builds a solid foundation for the network-slicing global ecosystem. The enhancement in Release 16 allows a third party to manage users’ subscriptions to a particular slice, which gives great flexibility to network slice tenants, particularly in the case of a multi-enterprise campus network.
Network-slicing use cases
The network-slicing features of 5G have been deployed in advanced markets, especially for enterprise customers. For example, a well-known European hotel group wants to provide streaming video broadcasting at conferences in its hotel, ensure connectivity at events with high user congestion, and improve communications services for its employees, all of which requires high-speed mobile broadband services. The hotel also needs to connect a massive number of video surveillance cameras and provide a simultaneous translation service with more than 80 written and 28 spoken languages. These applications require massive IoT connections and low-latency communications. Through collaboration with a service provider partner, the hotel group has deployed a 5G SA architecture indoor system and network slicing in its hotel. The 5G network-slicing capability fits the hotel’s communications requirements well. The 5G system with network-slicing functions can not only meet needs today but also enable more value-added services in the future, such as virtual reality or augmented reality for team-building activities or immersive presentations.
Network slicing has also been deployed for manufacturing and mining industries. In a coal mine in Asia, a single 5G network was deployed to support four types of different services: video monitoring with a large volume of uplink traffic, remote machine instructions requiring ultra-low latency, operational status reporting with high reliability, and workforce communications. The network-slicing functions guarantee the QoS of the four different types of services over a single 5G network, significantly improving the operational efficiency of the coal mine.
The network-slicing ecosystem is growing
Network slicing is an end-to-end framework rather than a feature only for 5G core networks. Support from devices, particularly chipsets and operating systems, is also crucial for commercial network-slicing applications. So far, major chipset vendors have announced support for network slicing. Windows 11 and Android 12 and 13 have passed the interoperability development testing for network-slicing functions, and iOS and iPadOS will support network-slicing functions in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 releases. All of this indicates that the network-slicing ecosystem is growing and preparing for scale deployments.
To make a successful private 5G deployment and get all the benefits from advanced 5G features, enterprises will need a standards-compliant and flexible private 5G solution. QCT OmniPOD, which is powered by Intel® Xeon® scalable processors that feature built-in accelerators and advanced security technologies, can provide an end-to-end private 5G network solution, comprising a 5G core network (5GC), a 5G radio access network (5G RAN), and a management platform (OAM), and serve as the foundational base underpinning a range of 5G use cases. The solution is powered by Intel performance features, such as use-case-specific Intel® Advanced Matrix Extensions (Intel® AMX) and Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 512 (Intel® AVX-512), and can address core network reliability demands and fulfill diverse coverage and capacity requirements.
As of July 2023, QCT has deployed its OmniPOD solution for 28 customers across a wide range of verticals in countries including Japan, South Korea, Germany, Singapore, the US, and Taiwan. Deploying across multiple verticals means gaining hands-on experience in the drivers, challenges, technologies, and culture of the various verticals. Key customer verticals for QCT include manufacturing (the leading vertical by deployments), smart tourism, smart campus, smart healthcare, smart agriculture, smart sport, and smart city. The OmniPOD solution is expected to continuously evolve with 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors to meet the growing demands from enterprise customers for advanced 5G features.