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Proximus, Oppo and Ericsson developed a 5G network slicing method for Oppo smartphones. The partners achieved a breakthrough during a recent test at Proximus’ 5G Innovation Lab in Brussels.

Network slicing allows operators to split a mobile network into virtual parts, also known as slices. The speed and latency of each slice can be adjusted individually.

The technique is promising for various systems, including autonomous vehicles. The navigation systems of these vehicles depend on low-latency connections, while multimedia systems perform better on high-throughput connections. Network slicing makes it possible to connect both systems to a separate slice, without the autonomous vehicle having to switch between two networks.

Network slicing has been supported by mobile network standards for years, but the introduction of 5G increased the technology’s accessibility. Smartphones are the main use case for 5G at this time. Hence, more and more organizations are experimenting with ways to apply network slicing to smartphones. Proximus recently used network equipment from Ericsson to make two network slices available on an Oppo smartphone.

Proximus and Oppo

Proximus is one of Belgium’s largest 5G service providers. The breakthrough allows the organization to eventually offer network slicing to customers with Oppo devices. One way in which Proximus could decide to deploy the technique is by providing separate network slices for mobile apps.

For instance, the technique could allow a smartphone to connect to a low-latency slice when its user opens a stock trading app, ensuring that share price changes come in as quickly as possible. If the same user decides to open a streaming service five minutes later, the device can switch to a high-throughput slice almost instantly.

Network slicing for operators

Network slicing allows operators to use their 5G infrastructure more efficiently. In an optimal world, every user would receive minimal latency and high throughput, but the performance of infrastructures is limited. Increasing a network’s overall capacity requires investments that simply aren’t available. Network slicing improves latency and speeds without putting additional pressure on the network.

The breakthrough does not mean that Proximus can offer the technique on devices from Nokia, Apple or other manufacturers. In general, network slicing must be supported by three parties: the operator of the network, the manufacturer of the network equipment and the manufacturer of the end user’s device. In August, Google and Nokia managed to apply the technique to an Android 13 device. Oppo, Ericsson and Qualcomm achieved the same on an Android 12 device in June.