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Results from BT UK 5G Network Slicing Trial Hint at Future Products

Thursday, Feb 8th, 2024 (10:12 am) - Score 3,320
concept of wireless radio Internet. 5G mobile technologies.

BT (EE) has today announced the outcome of their recent 5G based mobile network slicing trial at their Adastral Park facility. The trial showed how future products could be launched that establish optimised network connections specifically for online Gaming, Enterprise and Enhance Mobile Broadband (eMBB) services.

Just for a bit of context, 5G based Network Slicing essentially creates multiple virtual networks that sit on top of a single physical network, each of which can have different characteristics (e.g. speeds, latency, cybersecurity, capacity / device connection density etc.). Each network slice is essentially treated as an isolated end-to-end network. A slice can be dedicated to a specific location (an office or a campus) or the whole country.

NOTE: Network Slicing is currently only available via true end-to-end 5G Standalone (SA) networks. But most of the existing 5G deployments in the UK still rely on some aspects of the old 4G service (NSA) and that slows them down.

Suffice to say that this is one of the features of 5G SA networks that UK mobile operators are looking to harness as they roll-out the latest network upgrades. In keeping with that, BT has been working alongside Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies to test the new technology, not least by allocating a portion of their experimental 5G SA network to provide dynamic partitions for specific-use cases.

For example, the trial demonstrated an optimal mobile cloud gaming experience on Nvidia’s GeForce Now platform (i.e. cloud-based remote video gaming / streaming), maintaining a throughput comfortably in excess of the recommended 25Mbps at 1080p (HD video resolution), even when a background load was generated.

The companies initiated their gaming session (it’s a hard life for some) on Fortnite using the Samsung S23 Ultra device, equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy Mobile Platform, and Ericsson implemented Network slicing along with the Ericsson RAN feature Radio Resource Partitioning on EE’s Network to achieve a smooth experience. The experience was simultaneously compared to a non-optimised eMBB RAN partition, which was congested by the background load, resulting in a less than optimal gaming experience.

The trial also validated the potential of network slicing for BT’s business customers. Using the enterprise and eMBB slices, configured via URSP rules which enables a device to connect to multiple network slices simultaneously depending on the application, it demonstrated consistent 4K video streaming and enterprise use-cases using the same Samsung S23 Ultra device and a similar setup to the one above.

Greg McCall, BT Group’s Chief Networks Officer, said:

“Network slicing will enable us to deliver new and improved capabilities for customers in the 5G SA era. As we work diligently towards the launch of our own 5G SA network, today’s successful demonstration of how slicing enables us to differentiate Quality of Service to guarantee performance for different segments is a significant milestone, and illustrative of the new services that will be enabled by 5G SA.”

One potential difficulty for Network Slicing is the issue of maintaining Net Neutrality, which are the rules that exist to make sure that the traffic carried across broadband and mobile networks is treated equally and particular content or services are not prioritised or slowed down in a way that favours some over others.

However, Ofcom updated their guidance on this in 2023 (here), which appeared to give broadband ISPs and mobile network operators more flexibility to create “premium quality retail packages“, albeit only provided they are “sufficiently clear to customers about what they can expect from the services they buy.”

In addition, providers still have to walk a difficult line, since whatever they launch must not be to the detriment (quality or availability) of other internet access services on their network. But the biggest obstacle to Network Slicing is still the currently limited availability of 5G SA networks in the first place. Most network operators are only just at the very earliest stages of deployment, if they’ve even begun their roll-out at all (Vodafone has, but most others have not).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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19 Responses
  1. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    Oh great: game players will have prioritised access to bandwidth, degrading the mobile networks for people doing real work.

    I guess people who want higher priority for their traffic will pay more. But in the end, everyone thinks their traffic is important. No amount of QoS will change the total amount of capacity available.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      True that QoS can’t increase the bandwidth but it can give a much better user experience with the same bandwidth. Real time applications can’t wait, bulk downloads can. The difference between 10 MB/s and 9MB/s download speed won’t be that big a deal, that 1 MB/s will be fine for a couple of video calls.

      I’m in favour of having no bottleneck on networks, however mobile networks have limitations so all in favour of QoS on those networks. Network neutrality on mobile is a somewhat ‘pliable’ thing. On fixed line throw more fibre at it, can’t throw more spectrum at it.

  2. Avatar photo Jack says:

    Basically instead of investing in back haul and capacity across the whole network they will let people pay for a priority connection and everyone else suffers.

    Pretty much how BT handled ADSL all those years until FTTC

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      One of those options pushes up costs and then prices, one doesn’t.

      All networks have to be run efficiently or the pricing of the network becomes so high there are no customers to use it.

  3. Avatar photo Say no to Gaymers says:

    I think online gaming should be banned from networks. Or they should put all the gaymers on special expensive leased lines that don’t affect other users. You know when they show that “we did 8 billion terrabytes this year” stuff, guess whose fault that is ? Gaymers.

    1. Avatar photo JP says:

      The issue I’ve noticed with ‘some’ games, is when they receive an update the whole game image is downloaded again,

      I noticed this week alone PUBG via Epic Games did two updates and both where nearly 13GB in size, suffice too say I’ve deleted it as I didn’t play, I’ve never noticed updates of such magnitude from other titles I have installed.

      Vendors of PC games need to manage downloads and patches better, unfortunately the industry doesn’t really make much effort to compress or make efficient their architecture on games and they just continuely grow in size as they update them.

      I noticed last year that Grand Theft Auto V since 2021 has grown by around 30-35GB in size when downloaded from scatch now.

    2. Avatar photo chris.london says:

      Online games, that you run locally, only use a few 100 MB of data per hour at most, that is hardly an issue. If you stream games, that is when problems may arise but no sane person would want to stream games over a mobile network as that would make it a very bad experience with lag spikes and dropped frames and low res textures.

      By the way, the bandwidth requirements of streaming games is similar to that of streaming videos. Do you want to ban Netflix and Youtube over 5G too?

    3. Avatar photo anon says:

      OnLiNe gAyMEs aRE teH sAmE aS NeTFlIX

      What a Muppet. Yes watching a bit of netflix is the same as downloading 200GB games isn’t it.

      There should be an IQ test before commenting here.

    4. Avatar photo 125us says:

      No. Whatever it is you do on the Internet should be banned and you should have to buy a leased line.

      See how that works? Fool.

  4. Avatar photo Jamie Simms says:

    I hope EE 5GSA network will be better than Vodafone’s attempt as that is performing worse than the NSA 5G currently whether that is due to them slicing the customer network too thin.

    On SA speeds are around 100-150Mbps Download and 25-40Mbps upload with ping of 25-30ms where as NSA in the same location is 350-450Mbps 100Mbps upload

    1. Avatar photo anon says:

      Jamie where are you seeing vodafone SA? I would love to go give it a test but I haven’t seen it anywhere.

    2. Avatar photo JP says:

      SA with Vodafone is available pretty widespread, however Vodafone have a very select device and customer support for using it currently.

    3. Avatar photo Jamie Simms says:

      Anon- I have used Vodafone SA on Samsung S22 and S23 but has to be enabled on the account which is the difficult thing to get actioned finding staff who know how to do it.
      I have used in Leicester, Birmingham, Cardiff and London with performance very similar throughout at times I do wish that i didnt have it when trying to download and upload large files while out and about I even put spare sim in to use NSA if I know got some large files to move around. I know some large Vodafone corporate customers like NHS have some dedicated slices that they can use for testing and maybe with the 3G switch off they could look at moving more bandwidth over to 5G

    4. Avatar photo anon says:

      Jamie thank you. I live within an hour of london and an hour of cambridge and i’ve yet to see it but having to have it activated would explain it. That’s rather odd but VF can be odd sometimes.

      Thanks for replying.

    5. Avatar photo anonymous2 says:

      how do we get vodafone to enable it ? just do an online chat and pray they know what you’re talking about ? or is it an in-store thing?

  5. Avatar photo BC109 says:

    Does playing a game as opposed to downloading a game need high bandwidth?
    I thought a low latency was more important than speed?

    1. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      In the GeForce Now example given, the game runs on a cloud base server using input from the console and the video is transmitted back to the user and decoded by the console. The need for low latency video encoding requires a much higher bitrate than TV streaming. So this requires both both latency and a relatively high bandwidth.

      Online gaming using a PC or proper games console just requires low bandwidth to actually play the game.

    2. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

      Aargh, low latency not low bandwidth.

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