Service-Level Specifications (SLSs) for 5G Technology-Enabled Connected Industries

5G is poised to become the first generation of mobile communication systems that is widely adopted by vertically integrated industries. In addition to supporting millions of mobile subscribers, 5G will be used to interconnect machines, robots, sensors, etc. for the connected industries, which typically have quite demanding requirements in terms of the communication systems they use. Service-level specifications (SLSs) and the corresponding management mechanisms will play a key role in aligning the offerings of 5G communication service providers with the expectations of connected industries’ clients. This applies especially to SLSs for private industrial networks (also called nonpublic networks or NPNs).


Executive Summary

SLSs could be a set of requirements for a 5G system used in an industrial environment, which can be performance requirements (e.g. fault tolerance and service availability features), measurement requirements and other specifications. This white paper aims to establish a common basis to facilitate communication on SLS among information and communications technology (ICT) and operational technology (OT) partners, especially in connection with industrial usages for 5G systems.

Using 5G for connected industries is new territory for both information and communications technology (ICT) and operational technology (OT) players. Although 5G has been deployed in many countries since 2019 for enhanced mobile broadband services, its use in commercial and industrial scenarios in nonpublic networks is only just starting to get off the ground. 5G has already matured enough to support industrial IoT (IIoT) use cases, but on the business level a number of basic issues still need to be clarified. They include, for instance, how to specify and negotiate contractual service requirements and how to make sure that these requirements are met during a 5G system’s operational phase. A number of basic business-related questions are still open. All of these things require further study in order to present them more clearly and pave the way for practical implementation in industry.

This white paper aims to establish a common basis to facilitate communication on SLS among ICT and OT partners, especially in connection with industrial uses for 5G systems. Therefore, this white paper addresses both ICT and OT stakeholders.

Key messages

Insight and Vision

5G systems can be deployed in a variety of ways; the options include standalone NPNs (SNPNs) and NPNs that are integrated in public networks. These can involve a wide variety of business models and roles. To the best of our knowledge, there is no clear understanding of how to design SLSs that specifically target factories. The challenge is compounded by the fact that these SLSs can vary greatly between plants depending on both technical parameters such as the type of production, use cases, and brownfield technology and nontechnical aspects like business models, local laws and regulations and so on and so forth. This white paper gives the first attempt to discuss SLSs for 5G technology enabled connected industries. The key topics covered by this white paper are as following: (1) Defining SLSs (2) What a SLS looks like and how it is used across the system life cycle (3) Tools for generating SLSs.


Retrospect and Outlook

5G is opening up enormous new opportunities for connected industries. 3GPP Releases 16 and 17 have gradually enhanced the 5G system’s industrial IoT capabilities, thus bringing us a step closer to the commercial deployment of 5G and especially for use cases related to factory and process automation. At this stage, some essential practical questions urgently need to be answered. They include how to define and negotiate SLSs in commercial contracts and how to meet the promises made in them throughout a 5G system’s lifecycle. This white paper is the first attempt to answer these questions.

However, this is just the starting point for discussing SLSs for connected industries. Many aspects still to be additionally clarified and understood better in future work, for instance:

  • Clear, mature SLS acceptance criteria: testing during the pre-deployment phase may only reveal equipment and network capabilities without directly addressing a system’s actual real-life performance.
  • Comprehensive service monitoring methods: understanding of the QoS monitoring gaps between what has been defined in 3GPP and vertical industry demands and how to additionally enhance the monitoring mechanisms.
  • A clearly defined O&M responsibility matrix: responsibility should be broken down for the technical and business domains, based on the deployment model and associated business model in each case.
  • What other conceptual models could help practitioners generate and execute SLSs?
  • The scope of 3GPP and the features defined in its specifications are steadily evolving with each release. Many topics related to SLS will also continue to develop, like prediction-based assurances and closed-loop SLS assurances. It’s important to apply SLS-related requirements from vertical industries to 3GPP in a timely manner so they can be tackled in Release 18 and beyond.

We have awoken your interest?

Do you want to learn more about this future-oriented topic? Please download or share the 5G-ACIA white paper as a PDF file.

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