Nokia adds ‘extreme automation’ capabilities to 4G/5G network slicing

Nokia on Thursday announced it has added new automation capabilities for 4G and 5G network slicing, aimed at speeding up the time it takes for operators to deliver services and create or change slices.  

Network slicing is seen as one way that operators can offer new services, with specific portions or “slices” of the network sectioned and tailored based on specific customer or use case needs.

As the number of different services, customers and slices grows though, automating slices becomes key for fast delivery and assurance, according to Nokia. Its new slicing management solutions includes controllers and assurance tools that span the radio access network (RAN), transport, and core network domains. 

It operates as a software layer above the network, which allows operators to program the network and make it more consumable, via slices, for their end-customers, according to Roland Mestric, head of Product Marketing for Network Automation at Nokia. It also could be useful in private 4G/5G networks.

Nokia said the time it takes for mobile operators to deliver network slicing services drops to minutes, compared to hours or days.

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This is through the “extreme automation” capabilities, which are unique and enhance its Network Services Platform (NSP) for transport and core. The new software packages also extend the 4G/5G end-to-end network slicing product Nokia introduced in February and its slice orchestrator announced over the summer.

“By extreme automation we mean that we not only automate the creation of the slice, but also any update needed to the slice (through different service request or network update),” explained Mestric via email to Fierce. It’s “automating the automation.”  

The controllers enable real-time automation to create, modify or delete a large number of slices in the different multivendor domains.

“It’s not enough to write scripts to automate the deployment of a slice, you need to automate the creation of those scripts,” Mestric added, so that those updates are fast.  

Within slices, network operators can create different customer policies and group profiles for slices that might have differing performance, quality, routing and security resources allocated. That means a variety of services could be provided for different users as needed, with Nokia citing small or large enterprises, private wireless, IoT, fixed wireless access and content.

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Sasa Nijemcevic, head of Network Automation for Nokia’s IP/Optical Networks business, said in a statement that Nokia’s the first vendor to provide slicing in LTE and 5G networks in a multivendor network environment.

“By adding extreme automation capabilities, we are offering operators a single, modular solution that helps them deliver a new wealth of services at unprecedented speeds,” Nijemcevic stated.

When introduced at the beginning of the year, Nokia said its 4G/5G network slicing product could be deployed on existing LTE and non-standalone (NSA) 5G networks and easily rolled out in standalone (SA) 5G via a software upgrade as the networks are rolled out. The new software packages are for Nokia’s existing operations and assurance products, including NetAct and SON/Self-Organizing Networks and NSP.

Network slicing is often mentioned in unison with standalone 5G, where the core network is no longer reliant on LTE. In the U.S., T-Mobile is the only operator that’s turned on a nationwide SA 5G network, with Verizon and AT&T each planning initial activations later this year.

Telia Finland, meanwhile, has been working for end-to-end network slicing with Nokia since last year and is a pilot customer for the new slice automation tools.   

First deliveries are planned by the end of 2020.