Carrier Safaricom, alongside partners including Nokia, performed a pilot test for 4G and 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) network slicing on the telco’s live commercial network.
This is the first time that 4G/5G network slicing has been done on the continent.
The trial used a multi-vendor network environment and included RAN, transport, and core as well as software upgrades to a range of Nokia’s products and services.
4G/5G network slicing is the use of network virtualization to divide single network connections into multiple distinct virtual connections that provide different amounts of resources to different types of traffic.
Simply put, network slicing enables operators the ability to divide a network into multiple virtual slices, which can be optimized for a specific target application or service.
The end user of each network slice can then be serviced with different priorities, routing, levels of network performance, and security capabilities.
Slices can be managed and deployed in minutes, and each one has key performance indicators used for service assurance.
What does this mean?
The successful trial demonstrates that Safaricom is now poised to support new types of enterprise network services, including fast lane internet access and application slicing.
Furthermore, Nokia is enabling secured FWA slice connectivity to enterprise locations, as well as to private or public application clouds.
The trial was conducted in Western Kenya. It also demonstrated multiple solutions including Nokia’s AirScale 4G/5G base stations and FastMile 4G/5G CPE.
In April this year, MediaTek, telecoms firm and mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, as well as STC were also the first companies became the first companies to successfully verify 63 Component Carrier Aggregation (3CC-CA) in a 5G Standalone (SA) network in the city of Makkah for the first time in the Middle East and Africa. Carrier aggregation is a provision in 5G, and also in 4G standards that operators use to offer faster internet speeds to customers, and at an increased network capacity.
A month later, Kenya’s ICT regulator the CA allocated 60 MHz of spectrum in the 2600 MHz band to Safaricom for 5G expansion. The band has been termed as the best spectrum for mass 5G rollout in the country. No additional details were given, but it is likely the carrier was testing multiple bands to find the best option for commercial use.
James Maitai, Network Director, Safaricom, said: “We are proud to have hosted Africa’s first successful pilot of 4G/5G FWA slicing on our network, and looking forward to tailoring our service offerings to individual customers and industries, to meet their needs for high-speed connectivity precisely and without unnecessary cost. Nokia’s expertise has been key to this success, and we anticipate many more strategic wins in this area as our business expands.”
Ramy Hashem, Head of Safaricom Customer Team at Nokia, said: “It is great to have successfully completed this pilot with Safaricom, which is a huge step forward in providing Safaricom with state-of-the-art connectivity. Early experience of new slicing technology is invaluable in understanding the new business opportunities it enables. Nokia was the first vendor to offer a slicing solution and we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with Safaricom in providing world-class 4G and 5G network slicing services to its customers.”