Network slicing is a technology that allows multiple virtual networks to be created on top of a shared physical infrastructure. Each slice can have its own network properties, quality of service, and functionalities, making it possible to tailor the network to specific applications or services.

Why could this suck for ordinary broadband customers?

It could create a two-tier system of access?

The worry that 5G network slicing could lead to a two-tier system, where premium customers get better service, is not unfounded. The ability to dedicate network resources for specific applications or customers means that those who can afford to pay more could potentially receive better quality of service. This scenario mirrors concerns that have been raised about net neutrality, where internet service providers could give preferential treatment to certain content or services.

Rich players could dominate the resource allocation?

Larger companies with more financial resources could potentially buy or lease more slices, or slices with better quality of service, potentially leaving smaller players at a disadvantage. This isn’t quite like how larger companies can buy better web hosting or content delivery services today, but more like some internet users getting priority packet transmission.

Latency and performance issues for the rest of us?

While some slices may be optimized for low latency or high bandwidth, others might not perform as well if they are not tailored for specific applications or if they are oversubscribed. However, 5G itself offers significant performance improvements over 4G, so even the “basic” slices could offer better performance than what we see with current networks.

Of course there are some benefits.

Things like providing specialised services, greater efficiency, and even some potential innovation, but in my experience, whether it’s media owners ensuring you can’t play your kids’ DVD at your holiday destination, or providers using misleading language to describe what we’re actually getting, when the infrastructure we depend on is in private hands, things often don’t go our way…

Most normal citizens don’t care, or don’t notice these things, but these changes are a theft of the commons. We should fight back by being as informed as possible!