5G Network Slicing and Network Neutrality: my point of view
Let there be no mistake about this: from a technical point of view, 5G Network Slicing is totally awesome!
However, some aspects seems to disagree with Network Neutrality principles.
What is Network Neutrality?
Network neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services.
For instance, under these principle, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.
When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use.
Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.
What is Network Slicing?
Network slicing is a key component of 5G networks and allows multiple virtual networks to be created on top of a common shared physical infrastructure.
Each virtual network comprises an independent set of logical network functions that support the requirements of the particular use case, optimised to provide the resources and network topology for the specific service and traffic that will use the slice.
Functions such as speed, capacity, connectivity and coverage will be allocated to meet the particular demands of each use case, but functional components may also be shared across different network slices.
For example, an autonomous car will rely on a slice with low latency but not necessarily with a high throughput.
A streaming service will require a high throughput and is susceptible to latency.
Both would be able to be delivered over the same common physical network on virtual network slices, to optimise use of the physical network.
So, where is the problem?
Network slicing can be used where providers want to extend so-called ‘special services’ which make use of 5G’s low latency (the usual use-cases are long distance surgery and autonomous cars) and there is no reason that it can’t be deployed under network neutrality without hindrance for those sorts of applications.
However the telcos are also able to apply network slicing in a discriminatory way in order to help the overall 5G business case.
Infact 5G is an enormous investiment, and a lot of extra revenue will be garnered over the next 10 years or so with 5G based low-latency or ultra-high bandwidth ‘special’ services but they won’t be enough to make ends meet.
So 5G could be used as a pretext in order to squeeze extra earnings out of plain old Internet access introducing special tarifs based on application requirements, in opposition to the principles of NetNeutrality.