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UK project leads world in industrial 5G slicing and splicing

02 September, 2021

In what they claim is a world first, UK developers have begun testing an industrial 5G networking technology that “slices” and “splices” networks, allowing users to create multiple virtual networks that can be customised according to specific services and traffic levels needed. The networks can therefore be optimised to meet the needs of different processes to improve efficiency, performance and business output.

Testing the slicing technology marks the second phase of the £9m Government-backed 5G-Encode collaborative project that is intended to make the benefits of private 5G networking a reality for UK manufacturers.

The project aims to prove the commercial benefit of 5G technology for three use cases, in particular:
• augmented reality and virtual reality to support design, manufacturing and training;
• monitoring and tracking time-sensitive assets; and
• real-time wireless in-process monitoring and analytics.

This new phase follows the success of the first phase which was initiated at the National Composites Centre (NCC) late last year. It used 4G to establish a baseline for existing cellular technologies, against which the 5G results could be benchmarked.

The second phase is trialling a network slicing and splicing technology developed by 5G-Encode consortium member and leader, Zeetta Networks.

In most manufacturing environments, there are multiple tools and machines that need different levels of connectivity with varying degrees of latency and throughput. Slicing and splicing can create multiple virtual networks for the various processes.

The 5G-Encode consortium has created a new network slice by stitching together slices from one transport network and two separate private networks – one at the NCC HQ, the other at a facility several miles away.

The technology allows applications to be delivered across separate private 5G, 4G or Wi-Fi domains that communicate via a public 5G or other transport networks. Zeetta’s multi-domain orchestrator platform allows engineers to automate the splicing and dicing of the networks to provide users and machines with the exact level of connectivity needed to optimise their performance at any time. Any leftover capacity can be directed elsewhere, making factories more efficient and productive.

Zeetta Networks CEO, Vassilis Seferidis: seamless delivery of applications across different network domains

“For the first time in the world, an industrial 5G network can not only be customised and divided into multiple logical networks, but each of those virtual networks can be extended across a transport network to reach another virtual network in a completely different administrative domain,” explains Zeetta Networks’ founder and CEO, Vassilis Seferidis.

The technology allows individual network slices to be stitched together to create a new network slice via an easy-to-use graphical interface. “This ‘end-to-end’ slice delivers continuous connectivity for the seamless delivery of applications across different network domains regardless of vendor or technology,” says Seferidis. “This would allow, for example, a critical asset to be tracked continuously in real-time and with the same quality-of-service as it is transported from the point of production, to being received at the destination location.”

The 5G-Encode project aims to develop clear business cases and value propositions for 5G applications in manufacturing. It is being partially funded by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of its 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. The project is being run by a consortium led by Zeetta Networks and including the National Composites Centre, Mativision, Plataine, Solvay, Toshiba, Telefonica, Siemens, Accedian and the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab. Druid Software and Airspan are providing technology components.

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