How video comms could become a critical part of network slicing

T-Mobile’s launch of a 5G network slicing beta for developers, focused on video calling for critical real‑time communication applications, will start to bring in the cloud features enabled by T-Mobile’s 5G standalone (SA) network and open up application programming interfaces (APIs), analysts told Silverlinings.

“The idea is to be able to transmit and receive low latency video communications for critical business or public safety and government use cases, and many of those apps are at least partly cloud-based,” Techsponential president and lead analyst Avi Greengart said of the T-Mobile beta program that was announced last week. 

“There are a number of APIs that will expose the network to developers for the purposes of developing apps, in this case enhanced uplink/downlink/low-latency video communications,” Leonard Lee, executive analyst at neXt Curve added. “Their access to these APIs and the new enhanced video communications network service would be for their product/service development and testing.”

Greengart said that he didn’t know how much direct integration T-Mobile is doing with cloud and network APIs. Roy Chua, principal analyst at AvidThink, however, noted that Tencent has long worked with China Mobile to use APIs to enable developers to create and manage network slices for specific applications and services. Indeed, in China, network slicing is already readily available, as all of the mobile network operators (MNOs) deployed the 5G SA architecture needed for network slicing early, compared to Western MNOs.

North American and European operators are expected to follow the Chinese lead as 5G SA networks roll out and network slicing trials take hold. “It’s happening a little later than we all expected,” Chua said. “As the business models and the pricing works itself I think you’ll see more and more critical workloads appear on these networks.”

Indeed, Greengart noted that Verizon has also recently started its own dynamic network slicing trial. “Verizon has been less prescriptive in its descriptions of 5G network slicing, talking broadly about manufacturing, retail and transport, but network slicing has been one of 5G’s key network promises, and video is good use case,” Greengart said.

Lee commented, however, that developers could still end up with a limited market for their network slicing app that requires a 5G SA network that supports “enhanced video communications network [Quality of Experience].” Indeed, T-Mobile even notes in the press release about the slicing beta that it will not be available everywhere on the network. And T-Mobile likely has the largest 5G SA footprint in the U.S.!

As well as network maturity, Greengart points out that there are still open questions about how network slicing will play for operators outside of China. “It’s a new capability, so we’ll have to see how much demand there is and how dynamic the pricing models will be,” the analyst concluded.