The emergence of 5G technology is transforming telecommunications, granting people and industry remarkable capabilities. With research advancements, in the future we could see 5G offer speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second — it far surpasses 4G. This speed not only enables lightning-fast downloads, its low latency, as low as 1 millisecond, is ideal for real-time applications like remote surgery and augmented or virtual reality. 5G's ability to connect up to 1 million devices per square kilometer is also accelerating the development of the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT refers to a network of interconnected devices, vehicles, buildings and other items that are embedded with sensors, software and network connectivity. These IoT devices can collect and exchange data, enabling them to interact, communicate and perform tasks autonomously, often enhancing efficiency and providing valuable insights for various applications. These features are promising for the future of smart cities, homes and industrial automation.

The 5G revolution is on the horizon, teeming with possibilities for innovation and transformation, but first, companies like Rogers are investing in research and development that will support a made-in-Canada 5G ecosystem.

Dr. Raouf Boutaba, a professor and director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science, and his team are working with Rogers to validate various 5G related pilot projects, namely 5G slicing.

"Slicing involves harnessing virtualization technologies to generate multiple distinct networks that coexist on the same physical infrastructure. Each of these virtual networks, referred to as 5G slices, remains isolated from one another to prevent any interference that could impact performance or security," Boutaba says.

Moreover, each 5G slice is customized to cater to specific services, aligning with the three main categories of services that 5G networks promise to deliver including high-bandwidth services, IoT connectivity and ultra-reliable, low-latency communication.

Traditionally, offering these services would necessitate the deployment of separate networks, a costly and complex endeavor. This is where network slicing comes into play, allowing these services to coexist cost-effectively on the same physical network while maintaining the quality of service expected by each category.

Raouf Boutaga and his team and rogers cto

Boutaba and his team are working to empower Rogers' 5G network with slicing capabilities at both 5G core and access networks.

“Our approach leverages machine learning and data-driven algorithms, ensuring intelligent resource allocation, scaling and admission control for different service types,” Boutaba says. “We demonstrated this for Rogers, showcasing the adaptability of 5G slices for demanding applications like augmented and virtual reality and cloud gaming — optimizing network resources based on application demand.”

Boutaba's prior expertise in network virtualization has laid the foundation for the team’s work on 5G slices. However, the specific characteristics of 5G technology bring new challenges and questions, necessitating further research.

One of their projects, dubbed Monarch, is a monitoring architecture, which focuses on slice-level key performance indicators. Monarch aggregates network metrics and provides performance insights at the slice level, enabling the intelligent resource management algorithms they have created to determine resource allocation.

The research team's innovative algorithms have garnered recognition, with several of their publications receiving Best Paper awards at the Network Operation and Management Symposium (NOMS), an international conference in their field.

To validate their developments, with help from Rogers, the team established a 5G lab testbed, conducting experiments and fine-tuning their algorithms. The next phase involves working with Rogers and other companies to deploy wireless private networks in their lab, transitioning from open-source projects to production software and hardware stacks. Ultimately, the goal is to port their solutions into Rogers' 5G production network.

As the research progresses and knowledge is shared between to Rogers and Waterloo, the collaboration promises to transform the Canadian telecommunications landscape, making 5G slicing a reality. This partnership between academia and industry exemplifies the potential for cutting-edge research to shape the future of technology and connectivity.

The partnership between Rogers and Boutaba’s team is a testament to the innovative spirit and potential of Canadian research in global industry. As their cutting-edge work on 5G network slicing continues, it holds the promise of shaping how we experience connectivity in the digital age.