5G network slicing is maturing quickly, with the conversion going from what’s possible to the ecosystem of devices that should be part of these customised mobile networks. Now, Ericsson and industry partners Intel and Microsoft say they have broken the near ubiquity of smartphones as the sole device for 5G, and claim to have raised the bar on network slicing by successfully demonstrating end-to-end 5G standalone network slicing capabilities on a Windows laptop, seeing use in enterprise applications.
Powered by Intel processors and running on Windows 11 (OS), the interoperability development testing (IoDT), carried out at the Ericsson Lab in Sweden, showed the use of multiple network slices on cellular-connected laptop devices for consumer and enterprise use cases such as mobile gaming and collaboration applications.
The partners said network slicing has long been seen as vital to capturing the value a 5G network can provide for communications service providers (CSPs) and enterprises. They quoted research from global mobile trade association the GSMA showing the market for network slicing alone in the enterprise segment is projected to be $300bn by 2025.
Network slicing capabilities, they added, will benefit consumer and enterprise segments by defining a specific service-level agreement per slice for existing and emerging Windows applications and use cases, such as real-time enterprise applications like Microsoft Teams and Office365, gaming, media streaming, and emerging artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality/extended reality (AR/XR) applications.
The trial also aimed to illustrate the opportunities for 5G monetisation beyond smartphone devices and open the door to a wider 5G device ecosystem, allowing companies to expand their horizons when considering opportunities to generate profitable use cases for 5G. Noting that laptop-type devices, in particular, are vital to enterprise productivity, they added that the inclusion of Windows 11 laptops in the ranks of devices that can be used to commercialise 5G network slicing is a sign of the ecosystem maturing.
By demonstrating that a single Windows 11 device can make use of multiple slices, which are used according to the on-device usage profiles and network policies defined at the CSP level, the partners said they could show the flexibility and range of potential use cases available using this technology.
The network slicing trial used User Equipment Route Selection Policy (URSP), the capability that enables devices to automatically select between different slices according to which application they are using. It also used Ericsson’s Dynamic Network Slicing Selection, Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core and Ericsson’s RAN Slicing capabilities to secure user service differentiation. Together, said the comms tech providers, they delivered the required network capabilities for this solution.
“Expanding the range of devices for network slicing to include laptops will allow new business segments to create a variety of use cases for consumers and enterprises,” remarked Sibel Tombaz, head of product line 5G RAN at Ericsson. “We have shown, together with Intel and Microsoft, how ecosystem collaboration can open new possibilities. We will continue to strengthen Ericsson’s network slicing capabilities and work with industry partners to enable more applications on several devices, spreading the benefits of 5G in the consumer and enterprise segments.”
Ian LeGrow, Microsoft corporate vice-president of core OS innovation, added: “We are thrilled to showcase our cutting-edge technology and its ability to deliver fast, dependable and secure 5G connectivity on Windows 11. Partnering with Intel and Ericsson only further solidifies our commitment to innovation and openness in our platform.”