Verizon says some traffic will ride on network slicing later this year

Verizon is making network slicing inroads and a company executive said that he expects that some customer traffic will be running on network slices in the second half of this year.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Bill Stone, vice president of technology planning at Verizon, said that Verizon has made “great progress” with its standalone 5G (SA) network and as a result of that work, the operator was able to complete a network slicing demonstration in which it registered a commercially available smartphone on multiple network slices and transmitted data over those slices.

Verizon said that this demonstration was conducted using virtualized and non-virtualized RAN equipment as well as Verizon’s multi-vendor 5G standalone core network. The test showed the operator was able to create an “end-to-end” path for data that included the device chipset, operating system, application, radio network base station and network core.

5G network slicing allows an operator to carve out a portion of the 5G network and dedicate it to specific applications or customers. Unlike today’s wireless networks where service providers provide one-size-fits-all connectivity, with network slicing each slice operates as an isolated network and can be programmed for specific use cases.

Stone didn’t reveal the smartphone model that Verizon used in its network slicing demonstration but said that there are several commercially available 5G devices that support network slicing today and that more devices will be released in the future.

Google’s Android 12 iOS and Android 13 iOS both support 5G network slicing and last August  Ericsson and Google used a Pixel 6 Pro Android 13 smartphone to demonstrate how one device could connect to multiple network slices simultaneously using Ericsson’s network infrastructure.

Stone added that there are many IoT devices that support network slicing in addition to 5G smartphones.

Stone noted that one of the big benefits of network slicing is that it will enable Verizon to more efficiently operate its network so that applications that require more network resources, for example, multi-player gaming or augmented reality, can use a network slice that is optimized for that type of usage.  In addition, some IoT applications that don’t require much bandwidth or throughput, can ride on a network slice adjusted for that type of usage.

“The efficiency gains from network slicing means that we can scale the number of users on a slice,” Stone said.  

Fixed wireless access (FWA) is another application that could benefit from network slicing. Stone said that because FWA customers generate more data traffic and require higher network throughput, those customers could run on a network slice, resulting in a more efficient network.

“There are a multitude of new applications that we can engineer with network slices,” Stone said.

Stone also said that Verizon already has “several million” customers using its 5G core network and more customers are being added all the time.

Verizon isn’t the only operator experimenting with network slicing. Ericsson highlighted Singapore’s Singtel and its network slicing trials in the company’s June 2023 Mobility Report. 

In the report Ericsson said that Singtel used 5G network slicing to livestream the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix to subscribers of Sports Plus, a video streaming platform. In this case, the slice was designed and configured for higher throughput and lower latency to make the viewing experience better.

According to Peter Linder, Ericsson’s head of 5G marketing for North America, network slicing coupled with open APIs, will allow operators to link applications to network performance and provide more sophisticated bundles and also drive more incremental revenue.