Future 5G networks will be able to define different 'slices' (layers) within the network, which can be optimised for specific use cases. One slice may, for example, be ideal for mobile data traffic, another optimised for small sensors, and a final layer set aside for emergency services.
The speed of a mobile network is dependent on different parameters, such as latency, data speeds, or the number of devices in an area. Within a slice, an operator can customise these parameters for a specific use case or vertical.
Possible use-cases include:
Emergency services: currently, emergency services often use a separate, dedicated mobile network as regular telecom networks tend to go down during disasters. If people start using the network in large numbers, to call relatives for example, the increase in demand can lead to less availability. Under 5G, emergency services could however receive a dedicated slice operating on top of the regular telecom network, which would be very reliable.
eHealth: a 5G slice could connect an ambulance with health wearables of first responders, and then could even allow for remote video assistance between hospital doctors and first responders. A very reliable slice that could send high-quality footage would be key here, which is a use case being explored by the SLICENET project.
Smart cities: a city could operate its own slice within a mobile network for smart city services, such as using wireless cameras and sensors to monitor traffic or waste management.
Neutral host: in some cases, network slicing even allows a wholly new operating model for mobile networks. The 5GCity project, for example, supported the Italian city of Lucca in setting up their own mobile networks in the city centre. Most slices of this network are rented out to mobile operators (the typical owners of mobile infrastructure), while a slice is retained for smart city services. The owner of the mobile infrastructure thus becomes 'neutral'.
Industry 4.0: factories are increasingly monitoring and even remotely controlling machines through connections, yet this sometimes requires very quick reaction speeds from the network (e.g. for operating very precise machinery). In the future, an operator might rent out a very low latency slice to a factory for connecting such machines.
Barakabitze, Ahmad, Mijumbi, Hines 5G network slicing using SDN and NFV: A survey of taxonomy, architectures and future challenges
GSMA, 2017, An Introduction to Network Slicing
EENA 2019, 5G Technology in Emergency Services
Slicenet, 5G eHealth Smart / Connected Ambulance Use Case
Horizon Magazine, 2019, How 5G could democratise the telecoms industry