The Slice Is Served: Enforcing Radio Access Network Slicing in Virtualized 5G Systems

Salvatore D'Oro, Francesco Restuccia, Alessandro Talamonti, Tommaso Melodia

The notions of softwarization and virtualization of the radio access network (RAN) of next-generation (5G) wireless systems are ushering in a vision where applications and services are physically decoupled from devices and network infrastructure. This crucial aspect will ultimately enable the dynamic deployment of heterogeneous services by different network operators over the same physical infrastructure. RAN slicing is a form of 5G virtualization that allows network infrastructure owners to dynamically "slice" and "serve" their network resources (i.e., spectrum, power, antennas, among others) to different mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), according to their current needs. Once the slicing policy (i.e., the percentage of resources assigned to each MVNO) has been computed, a major challenge is how to allocate spectrum resources to MVNOs in such a way that (i) the slicing policy defined by the network owner is enforced; and (ii) the interference among different MVNOs is minimized. In this article, we mathematically formalize the RAN slicing enforcement problem (RSEP) and demonstrate its NP-hardness. For this reason, we design three approximation algorithms that render the solution scalable as the RSEP increases in size. We extensively evaluate their performance through simulations and experiments on a testbed made up of 8 software-defined radio peripherals. Experimental results reveal that not only do our algorithms enforce the slicing policies, but can also double the total network throughput when intra-MVNO power control policies are used in conjunction.

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