Network slicing was the focus of attention for a couple of big telcos this week, with KDDI and Samsung announcing a new alliance and T-Mobile US extending its 5G beta programme.

Mary Lennighan

September 27, 2023

3 Min Read
5G or 6G dot line mobile technology. Wireless data network and connection technology concept. high-speed, futuristic
5G or 6G dot line mobile technology. Wireless data network and connection technology concept. high-speed, futuristic background. vector design.

Network slicing was the focus of attention for a couple of big telcos this week, with KDDI and Samsung announcing a new alliance and T-Mobile US extending its 5G beta programme.

The pace with which we are seeing 5G network slicing announcements indicates that the technology is moving ever-closer to becoming a commercial reality, but it’s also worth noting that, as these latest offerings show, progress is steady at best. There’s no network slicing big bang here.

KDDI and Samsung revealed that they have inked an MoU to form a 5G Global Network Slicing Alliance, which sounds like a big deal…but actually, there’s not much to go on at this stage.

The remit of the alliance – which arguably would be more accurately dubbed a partnership, unless the pair plan to add other players in future and have simply failed to mention that – is to work to introduce a range of commercial 5G network slicing services and to examine new business models the technology could facilitate.

That sounds like progress. But it’s also something we might have assumed KDDI and Samsung were already doing. After all, they note that the alliance follows on from their previous joint work on network slicing, including a January field trial in which they carried out SLE assurance network slicing on a live 5G standalone network in Tokyo, and other endeavours going back a couple of years.

The companies outlined the usual use cases for network slicing: low latency slices for automated vehicles, IoT slices for smart factories, high-bandwidth slices for live video streaming, and so forth. But they didn’t provide much clarity on where they will actually focus their efforts.

“Through the strategic alliance, we not only aim to create new and immersive use cases, but also explore the infinite potential in transforming industries,” said Toshikazu Yokai, Chief Network Officer, Managing Executive Officer, Deputy General Manager of Technology Sector at KDDI, in a statement that doesn’t tell us much at all.

Similarly, Samsung’s Head of Global Sales & Marketing at its Networks Business, Junehee Lee, talked about facilitating innovation and advancing 5G, but without providing specifics. “We look forward to expanding our collaboration with KDDI to fully tap into the numerous opportunities that 5G network slicing offers,” he said.

But despite the lack of detail in this announcement, it’s yet another step on the road to 5G network slicing for telecoms operators. As is T-Mobile US’s revelation that its network slicing beta is now available to developers across the US.

It formally launched the network slicing beta a month ago for iOS developers in Seattle and San Francisco, and has now extended it both geographically and to include Android developers. The programme focuses on video calling app developers, and in this latest update T-Mobile is specifically calling on Android developers looking to optimise their video calling applications commercially available on the Samsung Galaxy S23 series.

“I am so incredibly proud of my team and our partners who are pioneering new technologies like network slicing so we can help bring the true promise of 5G to life,” said John Saw, EVP and Chief Technology Officer at T-Mobile US.

And actually, that’s what this is all about. Network slicing makes 5G do something that previous generations of mobile technology do not, aside from just being faster; it enables new use cases – as outlined by Samsung and T-Mobile – and therefore potential new revenue streams.

Indeed, Samsung referred to research published by Fortune Business Insights earlier this year that showed that the global network slicing market was valued at US$518.4 million last year and will rise to $759 million this year, then record a CAGR of 51% to reach $13.7 billion by 2030.

That’s a lot of promise. Operators may seem to be taking baby steps to get there – and making a lot of noise about it – but they are heading in the right direction.

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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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