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Digital Transformation 2020

Using 5G slicing to innovate across industries

iStock / Getty Image sPlus / HAKINMHAN

Annie Turner

Contributing Editor, TM Forum

Many products are offered in slices: pizza, a slice of pie – and 5G networks. However, it is not as simple as one might expect to deliver slices of pizza or pie to the satisfaction of customers.

So, if it takes proper planning and management to offer pizza by the slice, imagine the complexity of managing, orchestrating and monetising 5G network slicing. This is the challenge communications service providers (CSPs) are facing.

Making money by the slice

5G network slicing allows CSPs to offer differentiated services, each of which has a guaranteed quality of service, bandwidth, and security to match the unique application requirements.

5G slicing will not go mainstream until there is widespread deployment of 5G, at least year away. But the technology alone will not turn slicing into profit. That requires IT solutions for service management, orchestration and monetisation, and an industry that can benefit.

One example is the airline industry, which makes use of many forms of communications technology – from simple, best-effort terminal wifi, to secure and mission critical connectivity for passport control.

Re-imagining aviation in a 5G world

“The advent of 5G technology and conditions triggered by the current pandemic presents a compelling opportunity to re-imagine the future of aviation,” noted Stuart Birrell, the former CIO of London Heathrow Airport.

A proof-of-concept Catalyst project underway at TM Forum is exploring how 5G slicing can benefit this industry – from provisioning services and activation, to settlement, billing and monetisation.

The Catalyst, championed by AT&T and BT, with participants, Cango Networks, i2i Systems, MYCOM OSI, Oracle Communications and Wipro, demonstrates how complex, multi-partner 5G services can be designed and mapped to slice types that can be ordered in a few clicks.

In-flight wifi available to airline passengers

A further instance could be using 5G to enable passengers to download content in the airport on their own devices to enjoy during the flight, which costs airlines less than managing back-of-the-seat screens and entertainment content.

Depending on the business model – providing differentiated bandwidth in airports could generate revenue for airport owners – airlines, content owners and CSPs could charge for a tiered quality of service or something similar.

Another angle being explored is using data to improve operations and reduce costs. For example, planes generate significant operational data that needs to be quickly downloaded, analysed and actioned – even as a plane approaches the airport.

“Forward looking CSPs could, using 5G and passive fiber, take bold steps to serve industries such as aviation with mobile, secure and agile communications capabilities,” said Birrell. “The inherent control and efficiency of 5G provides far greater configuration flexibility than fixed alternatives used today – in other words, the future is flexible”.

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