By now, you likely think you know what “network slicing” is when it comes to 5G. But it turns out there are actually several different ways to slice a network. We consulted with the experts and rounded up the top five kinds of network slices you need to know about.

1. Hard network slicing (a.k.a. static network slicing)

A Samsung representative told Silverlinings the process of hard network slicing, also called static network slicing, involves the creation of strictly isolated slices optimized to a specific use case. Hard network slicing assures that resources, like bandwidth and security protocols, assigned to a network slice instance are specifically dedicated to that network slice instance only. This kind of network slicing is commonly used in services like autonomous vehicles, augmented reality (AR), and IoT devices. As hard network slicing designates specific areas within the network and reserves them for the slice, it can make guarantees on SLAs.

2. Soft network slicing (a.k.a. dynamic network slicing)

Soft network slicing, also called dynamic slicing, uses a more flexible, open approach to the distribution of network resources, sharing them among different slices based on real-time demand as system requirements change and evolve. The primary benefit to soft network slicing is its ability to enable more efficient resource utilization across different use cases.

“Static and dynamic network slicing are differentiated by the aspects of network slice provisioning – the way a network slice is created, installed and maintained,” a Samsung spokesperson told Silverlinings. “In static slicing, a network slice is created, installed and maintained for a relatively long period of time or permanently. Such static network slices are typically pre-planned by a network operator.”

“In dynamic slicing, a network slice is created, installed and maintained for a relatively short period of time and destroyed after the slice’s lifetime,” the Samsung representative added. “Such dynamic network slices are tailored to each enterprise, depending on what and when their needs are.”

3. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)

Slices can also be created to serve specific use cases, Ericsson’s External Communications Director Jannie Tong told Silverlinings.

“By employing these different types of network slicing, mobile network operators can provide optimized services and experiences based on the specific needs of different applications,” she said.

Slicing for eMBB is one example of this and is a type of network slicing designed for the 5G applications that generate the most traffic on mobile networks. It is a solution that delivers high-quality broadband services to mobile users and supports the massive amount of traffic generated from applications like streaming, virtual reality and online gaming.

4. Massive machine-type communications (mMTCZ)

This is another example of slicing specific to a particular use case, Tong noted, in this instance large-scale 5G IoT applications, involving the connection of billions of devices to the network. Network operators use mMTC for applications where vast quantities of interconnected devices come into play, such as environmental monitoring and smart city developments.

5. Ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC)

URLLC is a type of network slicing designed for critical applications that call for real-time response — think remote surgery or vehicle-to-X communications. The solution leverages state-of-the-art mobile edge computing technology to provide dependable low-latency guarantees to priority applications.

No matter the type, network slicing architecture is still a solution designed to address a trend of growing complexity in the services market that shows little sign of stagnating.

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