Press Release | 15 Mar 2022

Vodafone and Ericsson create UK’s first on-demand 5G network slice

Vodafone and Ericsson create UK’s first on-demand 5G network slice

Vodafone and Ericsson completed a successful lab trial demonstrating 5G network slicing with on-demand quality of service control for virtual reality use case.

  • Vodafone and Ericsson complete successful lab trial to demonstrate 5G network slicing with on-demand quality of service control for virtual reality use case.
  • Trial is a first for the UK telecoms and technology industry.
  • The automated process – from order placement, through to creation, optimisation and provision of the network slice – took 30 minutes.
  • 5G network slicing will enable on-demand, dedicated and secure end-to-end connectivity for consumers and businesses with guaranteed quality of service.
  • Network slicing can enable specialist use cases such as enhanced autonomous driving, remote healthcare and virtual/augmented reality.

Vodafone and Ericsson have successfully completed the UK’s first 5G standalone (SA) network slicing trial.

Network slicing is a new service for business customers and application developers, enabled by the deployment of 5G Standalone (SA) networks. The service allows mobile operators to create multiple virtual network slices which operate across the same physical network. Each slice is isolated from other network traffic to give dedicated and guaranteed performance, with the features of the slice tailored to the use case requirements.

In a joint lab demonstration, the two technology teams worked together to create an on-demand 5G network slice that was configured, using a RAN slicing function, to provide the low latency and high bandwidth required for a virtual reality use case in a retail store. The slice guaranteed a download speed of 260Mbps and latency of 12.4 milliseconds.

The lab trial is the first of its kind for the mobile industry in the UK.

Each slice is isolated from other network traffic to give dedicated and guaranteed performance, with the features of the slice tailored to the use case requirements.

The process, from placing an order to creation of the network slice to carry live network traffic, took just 30 minutes. This demonstrates Vodafone and Ericsson’s ability to rapidly deliver automated and customised connectivity services as customers’ needs change.

A network slice can be customised to several different variables, including geographical location of slice (single office location to nationwide), download and upload speeds (minimum thresholds), latency (maximum threshold), capacity (device connection density in specific areas), and security (enhanced cybersecurity features).

New capabilities and services for customers may include secure communications for remote workers, high performing cloud-based and mobile gaming, enhanced safety in autonomous vehicles, and remote assistance for specialist procedures in hospitals and ambulances.

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Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK, said: “Network slicing is an incredibly valuable step forward. By segmenting our network, and customising different slices for different requirements, we can bring to life new ideas that would be impossible otherwise. When we configure our network to empower new services, industries like gaming, entertainment and healthcare can enter a new era. What might seem like science fiction is one step closer thanks to network slicing.”

Andrea Spaccapietra, VP Digital Services, Ericsson UK & Ireland, said: “Network slicing will play a crucial role in enabling new and innovative 5G services for consumers and enterprises. With the tools to efficiently manage network resources and provide differentiated services with dedicated performance, leading network operators like Vodafone can enable new business model innovation and use cases across different sectors and unlock new revenue opportunities to realise the full potential of 5G.”

About the trial

Making use of its Ericsson-built 5G Standalone containerised core architecture and end-to-end automated orchestrated solution, including 5G RAN slicing, Vodafone was able to create a premium virtual reality network slice experience.

How did the network slice improve performance for a virtual reality use case?

1https://www.speedtest.net/global-index/united-kingdom#mobile

In the future, Vodafone will create a catalogue of different network slices that can be selected by customers depending on the required experience. The selection and provision of network slices will be automated through a customer portal. The Vodafone team will work with customers to continually evolve the features that can be customised within a slice.

According to Ericsson’s network slicing reports, is it estimated that 25-30% of the potential 5G use cases will need slicing as an enabler. Potential use cases include:

  • Mobile gaming: Today’s player-versus-player real-time gaming experience requires low-latency performance to guarantee a high-quality experience. A maximum threshold for latency and jitter can be applied to specialised network slices to ensure the gaming applications react in near-real time.
  • Upgraded performance for short periods of time: Customers could “upgrade” performance for a short period of time. For example, increased download speeds to download video content ahead of plane trips.
  • In-venue experience: The connectivity experience for customers at entertainment venues can be a frustrating experience because of the high concentration of people in a small area. However, as demand at these venues is not 24/7, it could make more commercial sense to deploy a high-bandwidth and high-capacity network slice to ensure customers at mass attendance events have suitable connectivity coverage.
  • Automotive: For self-driving or remotely operated vehicles, enhanced and ultra-reliable connectivity is critical for both performance and safety. Specialised network slices could enable tele-operated/self-driving vehicles and real-time situational awareness. Network slicing also guarantees a certain level of Quality of Service to meet specific security needs that might be a regulatory requirement.
  • Healthcare: Use cases include remote assessment of potentially life-threatening conditions through video where a low-latency slice could be critical for video performance, collecting data for early detection of diseases through precision medicine, as well as using robotics for rehabilitation with real-time control.
  • Smart city (public safety): Use cases include real-time smart surveillance, massive mission critical IoT (such as connectivity for electricity grid substations) and real-time location information for emergency services. As each of these use cases could impact the safety of the general public, it would be advantageous to have a specialised network slice, rather than using the public internet (a homogonous connectivity experience).
  • Smart city (massive IoT): Opportunity to deploy new, low-energy and cost-effective sensors at scale (smart electricity sensors for example) with capacity able to be adjusted with demand.
  • Broadcast and production: Use cases include remote broadcast and production, where the quality of live-stream content could be impacted by network upload speed. At mass entertainment events, there is also a risk of network congestion, whereas a dedicated network slice for broadcasters would be one of the few options available to guarantee data is transferred back to production studios in a timely manner, especially in temporary venues (such as music festivals).

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Notes to Editor:

What is network slicing?

Network slicing is a new approach to managing quality of service on telecommunications network infrastructure. By creating multiple virtual networks that sit on a single physical network, telecommunications operators can create different network experiences by defining the variable characteristics of that slice.

In practice, a certain percentage of the available spectrum is dedicated to create numerous slices, while the rest is available for general use as it always has been. As 5G connectivity is more efficient than 4G (i.e. greater spectral efficiency means improved bandwidth and capacity – more data can be transmitted at a faster rate), the general public won’t see any impact on performance of the network for their devices.

Why has network slicing not been available before?

Network slicing has not necessarily been needed to date. 4G networks provide a connectivity service which can deliver the desired experience for the vast majority of applications that are available to business and consumer customers today. However, as more services are digitised, new use cases emerge and more “things” are connected to the network, telecommunications operators must manage networks in new ways.

Network slicing is only available on 5G Standalone networks. A 5G Standalone network is one which does not rely on any 4G network infrastructure, including the core network.

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How big can a network slice be?

A network slice can be configured to cover any geographical location where the network is available. A slice can be dedicated to a specific location (an office or a campus) or the entirety of the UK. The availability of the network slice is defined by the customer.

The slice can also be made available to as many devices as necessary. Access to the slice can be defined by the customer.

What sort of network characteristics can be defined on a network slice?

  • Throughput: a minimum/maximum threshold for download/upload speeds
  • Latency: a minimum/maximum threshold for Round Trip Time (the time it takes for an application to react)
  • Security: additional security requirements can be applied to a network slice
  • Capacity: for increased device density – this is more applicable to massive machine-type Internet of Things

What does latency mean?

Latency refers to the time it takes for an application on a device to react to signals sent to it from a server in a data centre. This Round-Trip Time (RTT) is known as latency.

The RTT is defined by several different factors, such as how far away the data centre is from the device (geographical location) as well as the efficiency of the communication between the device and the base station. For the latter, 5G Standalone is significantly more efficient than 5G Non-standalone and 4G.

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About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were also the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. As of March 2022, we have 5G in 380 locations across Europe – 141 in the UK and 239 across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 26 UK towns and cities, rising to 35 over the coming months, through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach. By spring 2022, our target is to make full fibre services available to more than eight million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK please visit: www.vodafone.co.uk.

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