5G network slicing for rural connectivity: multi-tenancy in wireless networks

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2023
Thesis identifier
  • T16769
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201769043
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • As the need for wireless broadband continues to grow around the world, there is an increasing focus to minimise the existing digital divide and ensuring that everyone receives high-quality internet services, especially the inhabitants of rural areas. As a result, different technological solutions are being studied and trialled for improving rural connectivity, such as 5G with dynamic spectrum access. One of the architectures of 5G is network slicing, which supports network virtualisation and consists of independent logical networks, called slices, on the 5G network. Network slicing supports the multi-tenancy of different operators on the same physical network, and this feature is known as neutral host networks (NHN). It allows multiple operators to co-exist on the same physical network but on different virtual networks to serve end users. Generally, the 5G NHN deployment is handled by an infrastructure provider (InP), who could be a mobile network operator (MNO), an Internet service provider, a third-party operator, etc. At the same time, potential tenants would lease slices from the InP. The NHN strategy would help reduce resource duplication and increase the utilisation of existing resources. The existing research into NHN for small cells, in-building connectivity solutions, and other deployment scenarios help to understand the technological and business requirements. End-to-end sharing across operators to provide services to their end users is another innovative application of 5G NHN that has been tested for dense areas. Meanwhile, the feasibility and policy impact of NHN is not studied extensively for the rural scenario. The research in this thesis examines the use of NHN in macro- and small-cell networks for 5G communication systems to minimise the digital divide, with a special focus on rural areas. The study also presents and analyses the 5G multi-tenancy system design for the rural wireless scenario, focusing mainly on exploring suitable business cases through network economics, techno-economic study, and game theory analysis. The results obtained from the study, such as cost analysis, business models, sensitivity analysis, and pricing strategies, help in formulating the policy on infrastructure sharing to improve rural connectivity. The contributions of the thesis are useful for stakeholders and policymakers to assess the suitability of the rural 5G NHN by exploring state-of-the-art technologies, techno-economic analysis, sensitivity analysis, newer business models, investment assessment, cost allocation, and risk sharing. Initially, the research gap is highlighted through the extensive literature review and stakeholders’ views on rural connectivity collected from discussions with them. First, the in-depth discussion on the network economics of the rural 5G NHN includes the study of potential future scenarios, value network configurations, spectrum access strategy models, and business models. Secondly, the techno-economic analysis studies the key performance indicators (KPI), cost analysis, return on investment, net present value, and sensitivity analysis, with the application for the rural parts of the UK and India. Finally, the game theory framework includes the study of strategic interaction among the two key stakeholders, InP and the MNO, using models such as investment games and pricing strategies during multi-tenancy. The research concludes by presenting the contribution towards the knowledge and future work.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Crawford, David H.
  • Stewart, Robert W.
Resource Type