Enterprises can leverage traffic handling capabilities by prioritizing SIMs on a private cellular network
As the proliferation of 5G standalone networks (5G SA) expands, so does the interest in the technologies it enables — particularly 5G network slicing. According to a study conducted by Fortune Business Insights, the network slicing market — valued at $518.4 million in 2022 — is expected to grow to more than $13 billion by 2030. While some enterprises wait for their opportunity to invest in network slicing, others are turning straight to private networks with private cellular SIM grouping as a way to prioritize traffic and enable new applications in the interim.
Private vs. public network slicing
Although 5G SA has been available in certain pockets of the globe for some time, network operators have only recently begun deploying this architecture on a grander scale to support 5G network slicing. Device manufacturers are also slowly integrating features to broadly support this technology. Network slicing divides the existing macro network architecture into independent sections to meet unique application needs and service requirements. Slice categories include:
- Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) for everyday users focused on speed and capacity (the only slice that does not require 5G SA)
- Ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) for mission-critical applications requiring high reliability and low latency
- Massive or critical machine-type communications (mMTC or cMTC) built primarily to support a large number of IoT devices in a given area
- Public safety slices used exclusively by government and public safety agencies
When deployed on public networks, 5G network slicing can provide a guaranteed quality of service (QoS) that protects an enterprise’s wedge of the public network from performance lag caused by high volumes of traffic. This means the business can count on more reliability because designated slices are not shared by public users.
For use cases such as fleet management companies whose autonomous taxis need prioritized network connectivity in congested areas, this is crucial to keeping business moving. For cellular operators, offering this premium service on a public network is a way to generate more revenue.
Even in areas where network operators have launched slicing on 5G SA networks, not all radios, modems, and chipsets support this new technology. However, enterprises using a private 5G or private LTE network to build boundaries between public and enterprise users and prevent service interruptions now have another option: SIM-based slicing.
When using SIM-based slicing on a private cellular network instead of network slicing on public cellular, businesses can achieve the desired QoS with the added benefit of having more control over the traffic on their network. For example, an enterprise could deploy a private LTE network in a factory to assign different QoS levels to assets including security cameras, sensors, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), employee tablets, and more. With SIM-based slicing, the enterprise can place subsets of these devices on individual slices to achieve specific performance and traffic management goals.
How SIM-based slicing affects traffic handling
Where public carrier network slicing is unavailable or a poor fit for the enterprise, cloud-managed solutions like Cradlepoint NetCloud Private Networks provide an alternative. With a native SIM grouping and prioritization service, enterprises can implement an LTE private cellular network with traffic prioritization.
Let’s revisit the smart factory scenario to see how it works. In this example, a network administrator can group all private LTE SIMs belonging to AGVs, and then assign the group a certain quality of service identifier (QCI) value. Assigning a specific QCI value to a SIM group results in the private network giving preferential treatment to the traffic moving to and from the devices that belong to the SIM group. When congestion is encountered on the network, the lowest priority level (highest value number) is the first to lose access to available bandwidth. With these settings, administrators can also configure guaranteed bandwidth reserved for these devices. Within a SIM group, other prioritization and control parameters can also be used as a means to throttle specific traffic based on bandwidth consumption.
In short, based on the private SIM cards assigned to a SIM group and the group’s respective prioritization values, access points throughout a factory’s private network will know that AGV traffic, for example, has a higher network priority than employee tablets, sensors, cameras, or other connected devices. This same methodology can be applied to private networks in hospitals, arenas, warehouses, campuses, and more.
Private SIM groups vs. 5G network slicing
NetCloud Private Networks supports the ability to quickly and easily create SIM groups, assign QCI values, assign SIM groups access to a private network or networks, and more.
While SIM-based slicing is not a direct replacement for network slicing, it is a differentiator for enterprises that have invested in NetCloud Private Networks and want to control their network further. In most cases, SIM groups satisfy the need to prioritize a subset of traffic. Looking forward, network slicing will offer additional options when designating network resources such as latency requirements for mission-critical devices on public networks.