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What is network slicing? Unlocking the potential of network slicing for edge computing

What is network slicing? Unlocking the potential of network slicing for edge computing

Network slicing is a term that is getting used a lot to describe functionality in a 5G network. Is it going to be the Ginsu knife in a network operator’s toolkit?

Network slicing is being promoted as useful for edge computing applications such as IoT, industrial automation and smart cities. It provides a way for different users and services to use the same physical network, but each gets its own “slice” tailored to meet their needs.

What is network slicing?

Network slicing is a technology that allows operators to establish several distinct virtualized networks on a shared infrastructure using software-defined networking (SDN). Network slices can support various specific applications, services, sets of users or networks and span multiple network domains. One of the more talked about features in a 5G network, network slicing has several use cases. It can facilitate different services with distinct requirements, such as voice calls or connected vehicles, which all need different levels of reliability, latency and throughput.

Network slicing leverages the flexibility of SDN and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to implement multiple virtual networks on shared physical infrastructure. It allows customization of each use case’s network architecture, management and security. Although functional resources and components can be shared across different network slices, each slice can be customized with specific capabilities such as capacity, data speed, connectivity, latency, reliability, quality and services to meet a particular Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Benefits of network slicing for edge computing

Network slicing provides service providers with the ability to customize services inexpensively. For example, it can permit them to test new services and create new revenue opportunities. It also increases flexibility, scalability and return on investment by offering various services without dedicated hardware.

It provides improved network performance and reliability by allocating resources on demand and customization and flexibility for different use cases. Network slicing also enables cost efficiency by reducing capital costs associated with hardware and software while providing greater security and privacy as it can isolate the data traffic of each slice from others, for example.

Applications of network slicing in edge computing

IoT: Network slicing can be used in edge computing for various Internet of Things (IoT) applications, from environmental monitoring to industrial automation. By using slices to segment different networking needs, it is possible to efficiently manage numerous devices, provide coverage, conserve energy and secure fast and reliable communications for various sectors.

Industrial automation: Network slicing can be used within industrial systems, allowing companies greater productivity and efficiency. Network slicing is imperative, for example, when dealing with IIoT services with diverse needs. By creating specific slices for different industrial use cases such as robotics systems in warehouses that require ultra-low latency, companies can ensure that these systems can have the bandwidth, latency and security to operate safely and reliably alongside other systems (worker monitoring, for example).

Smart cities: To create smart cities, a consistent and uninterrupted data flow between wired and wireless networks must be maintained. In situations where real-time data is necessary, interruptions or delays caused by latency issues must also be avoided. Network slicing makes it possible for smart cities to deploy solutions that meet the needs of citizens and city administrations.

For example, network slicing can provide fast, secure, and efficient communication between devices and services for applications like traffic monitoring, public safety and smart buildings.


By creating slices tailored explicitly to different use cases, network slicing can ensure that data is prioritized where and when it needs to be.

According to allied market research, the global network slicing market size was $172.56 million in 2019. It is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.7% from 2020 to 2027 and reach a value of $921.02 million by 2027.

The worldwide network slicing market is expected to grow due to the increasing demand for next-generation 5G networks, the rise in use cases of network slicing for Industry 4.0 and the development of smart cities and services. Additionally, the proliferation of SDN and NFV is expected to help drive market growth.

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