UScellular entered the trial phase of its standalone (SA) 5G core, which CTO Mike Irizarry told Mobile World Live (MWL) was the first step towards offering network slicing for its fixed wireless access (FWA) home internet service.
Irizarry said the company had developed the SA 5G core over several years and the testing is a prelude to a full deployment.
He explained the core would enable UScellular to offer a network slice to its FWA customers, another to mobile 5G users and a third to businesses.
“I can create those distinct slices, or logical networks, on top of my physical network and tune the experience to give the best experience to each of those customers and optimise the delivery, which will improve my cost to deliver those services to those unique customers.”
Irizarry stated the company was preparing to activate a network slice on its SA 5G core, which would “more than likely” be used for its home internet service.
“If that goes well, and it gives us all of those benefits, we’ll turn around and do the same thing for mobile customers.”
The CTO noted building a cloud-native, software-based SA 5G core was a “big shift” from the 4G network currently used for its 5G service.
UScellular picked Nokia to construct its SA 5G core but Irizarry noted it also has deployed base stations from Ericsson and Samsung.
“All of that requires a lot of work.”
“It takes time to make sure it all plays nicely together so that the customer doesn’t have a bad experience.”
While the SA 5G core will enable new revenue from services including network slicing, Irizarry said the less glamourous side was it would optimise profit by improving cost.
I want revenue. I want more customers, but I want my margins to improve.Mike Irizarry, CTO UScellular
“Anything I can do to drive revenue up or lower cost is a good thing. Applying network slicing to FWA and mobility allows me to optimise costs.”