In this clause, the general principles and requirements related to the realization of network slicing in the NG-RAN for NR connected to 5GC and for E-UTRA connected to 5GC are given.
A network slice always consists of a RAN part and a CN part. The support of network slicing relies on the principle that traffic for different slices is handled by different PDU sessions. Network can realise the different network slices by scheduling and also by providing different L1/L2 configurations.
Each network slice is uniquely identified by a S-NSSAI, as defined in TS 23.501
. NSSAI (Network Slice Selection Assistance Information) includes one or a list of S-NSSAIs (Single NSSAI) where a S-NSSAI is a combination of:
mandatory SST (Slice/Service Type) field, which identifies the slice type and consists of 8 bits (with range is 0-255);
optional SD (Slice Differentiator) field, which differentiates among Slices with same SST field and consist of 24 bits.
The list includes at most 8 S-NSSAI(s).
The UE provides NSSAI (Network Slice Selection Assistance Information) for network slice selection in RRCSetupComplete, if it has been provided by NAS (see clause 18.104.22.168
). While the network can support large number of slices (hundreds), the UE need not support more than 8 slices simultaneously. A BL UE or a NB-IoT UE supports a maximum of 8 slices simultaneously.
Network Slicing is a concept to allow differentiated treatment depending on each customer requirements. With slicing, it is possible for Mobile Network Operators (MNO) to consider customers as belonging to different tenant types with each having different service requirements that govern in terms of what slice types each tenant is eligible to use based on Service Level Agreement (SLA) and subscriptions.
The following key principles apply for support of Network Slicing in NG-RAN:
RAN awareness of slices
Selection of RAN part of the network slice
NG-RAN supports a differentiated handling of traffic for different network slices which have been pre-configured. How NG-RAN supports the slice enabling in terms of NG-RAN functions (i.e. the set of network functions that comprise each slice) is implementation dependent.
Resource management between slices
NG-RAN supports the selection of the RAN part of the network slice, by NSSAI provided by the UE or the 5GC which unambiguously identifies one or more of the pre-configured network slices in the PLMN.
RAN selection of CN entity
NG-RAN supports policy enforcement between slices as per service level agreements. It should be possible for a single NG-RAN node to support multiple slices. The NG-RAN should be free to apply the best RRM policy for the SLA in place to each supported slice.
Support of QoS
NG-RAN supports QoS differentiation within a slice.
Resource isolation between slices
For initial attach, the UE may provide NSSAI to support the selection of an AMF. If available, NG-RAN uses this information for routing the initial NAS to an AMF. If the NG-RAN is unable to select an AMF using this information or the UE does not provide any such information the NG-RAN sends the NAS signalling to one of the default AMFs.
For subsequent accesses, the UE provides a Temp ID, which is assigned to the UE by the 5GC, to enable the NG-RAN to route the NAS message to the appropriate AMF as long as the Temp ID is valid (NG-RAN is aware of and can reach the AMF which is associated with the Temp ID). Otherwise, the methods for initial attach applies.
The NG-RAN supports resource isolation between slices. NG-RAN resource isolation may be achieved by means of RRM policies and protection mechanisms that should avoid that shortage of shared resources in one slice breaks the service level agreement for another slice. It should be possible to fully dedicate NG-RAN resources to a certain slice. How NG-RAN supports resource isolation is implementation dependent.
By means of the unified access control (see clause 7.4), operator-defined access categories can be used to enable differentiated handling for different slices. NG-RAN may broadcast barring control information (i.e. a list of barring parameters associated with operator-defined access categories) to minimize the impact of congested slices.
Support for UE associating with multiple network slices simultaneously
Some slices may be available only in part of the network. The NG-RAN supported S-NSSAI(s) is configured by OAM. Awareness in the NG-RAN of the slices supported in the cells of its neighbours may be beneficial for inter-frequency mobility in connected mode. It is assumed that the slice availability does not change within the UE's registration area.
The NG-RAN and the 5GC are responsible to handle a service request for a slice that may or may not be available in a given area. Admission or rejection of access to a slice may depend by factors such as support for the slice, availability of resources, support of the requested service by NG-RAN.
Granularity of slice awareness
In case a UE is associated with multiple slices simultaneously, only one signalling connection is maintained and for intra-frequency cell reselection, the UE always tries to camp on the best cell. For inter-frequency cell reselection, dedicated priorities can be used to control the frequency on which the UE camps.
Validation of the UE rights to access a network slice
Slice awareness in NG-RAN is introduced at PDU session level, by indicating the S-NSSAI corresponding to the PDU Session, in all signalling containing PDU session resource information.
It is the responsibility of the 5GC to validate that the UE has the rights to access a network slice. Prior to receiving the Initial Context Setup Request message, the NG-RAN may be allowed to apply some provisional/local policies, based on awareness of which slice the UE is requesting access to. During the initial context setup, the NG-RAN is informed of the slice for which resources are being requested.