New innovations such as self-driving cars, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and virtual reality are driving the next paradigm shift, and 5G will provide the exponential improvement in bandwidth and latency reduction to power these advancements.
People demand the best in performance when it comes to wireless technology. New 5G advancements allow speeds up to 100 times faster than existing cellular connections and latency in the 1 millisecond range, 5G will even surpass the current capabilities of physical fiber optics. To support a successful transition, 5G test practices are being developed and refined to ensure the consistent 5G performance that end users demand. The collective tools, software, protocols, and practices required for all 5G deployment phases form the core of the emerging 5G testing field
5G testing means more than verifying the lightning fast download speeds, super low latency and expansive coverage density. Simplified, end-to-end 5G test solutions are playing a vital role in the development, deployment, and operational excellence of emerging 5G networks. The unparalleled test process automation experience and expertise ranging from the lab to the field from VIAVI is unlocking improved visibility, faster time-to-market and optimized 5G revenue streams.
All big changes require commitment, and 5G performance is no exception. The new architectural elements that define 5G bring complexity and technical challenges to the test arena commensurate with the 5G New Radio level of innovation. VIAVI is a company at the helm of 5G protocol testing and has created a comprehensive and fully-integrated 5G network testing selection of cloud-enabled test devices and equipment, software automation services and network test solutions. For developers, operators and their partners, this commitment to 5G performance and service has translated to successful deployments and sustainable 5G network assurance.
Read on to discover how the importance and challenges of 5G testing continue throughout all deployment phases.
Why 5G Testing Is Important
5G testing has become a critical enabler of 5G potential. Test solutions have quickly adapted to complex use cases and wholesale architectural advancements encompassing core, transport, RAN and fiber network elements simultaneously. This has necessitated advanced emulation and verification technology in the 5G test lab that is scalable to full 5G deployment in the field.
5G fiber networks are being challenged to meet fronthaul and backhaul demands with the bar set higher for speed, bandwidth, reliability and synchronization while network function virtualization (NFV) and edge computing introduce additional visibility obstacles. This convergence of dynamic system elements makes automated, real-time intelligence platforms another important pillar of 5G network performance testing and optimization necessary to put your 5G solution in place.
Challenges in 5G Network Testing
The combination of millimeter wave utilization, MIMO, and beamforming provides the infrastructure of 5G and the pathway to incredible performance enhancements for our evolving digital world. The added complexity introduced by these innovations can also pose challenges for 5G test networks as well as the overall 5G testing process. MIMO essentially means (many) more antennas, which represents a higher test burden to ensure that all integrated antennas are fully operational. Measurement connectors for each antenna will no longer be feasible based on the compact architecture and density.
The utilization of the millimeter wave and beamforming at super-high frequencies presents additional obstacles. Since these frequencies are much more susceptible to propagation loss from environmental conditions, over-the-air (OTA) testing may be less consistent and more complex. However, since conducted mode testing cannot be performed without discrete connection points, OTA will be required more frequently to avoid limited results.
Channel emulation becomes more complex with 5G, since the number of necessary RF channels will exponentially increase, as opposed to the linear expansion experienced with 3G and 4G releases. For 5G test equipment to be practical, the electronics technology must advance rapidly to compensate for the intricacy. Creative solutions that minimize chamber testing and other expensive test elements, without compromising test coverage and accuracy, should continue to be explored in the market.
5G Deployment Phases
The deployment of 5G is a complex and challenging endeavor, requiring careful planning, many 5G test and measurement cycles, followed by seamless execution. Within each individual deployment phase, prudent application of an optimized 5G test toolkit is the best way to guarantee success. In many cases, these phases will be compressed and overlapping.
5G Testing Best Practices
While the 3GPP has released the preliminary standard for 5G NR, there are still many areas in need of further refinement. Non-standalone (NSA) mode has been addressed in the 2017 release, although details regarding 5G standalone (SA) mode specifications, absent the convention of LTE coverage as an anchoring technology, have yet to be established.
Standardization is ultimately the key to developing accurate 5G test models, which in turn lead to more harmonized test practices. With the LTE standard now adopted worldwide for phones and other mobile devices, there is every reason to anticipate a similar evolution for 5G testing best practices.
Given the enormous frequency range and high-bandwidth services inherent to 5G technology, standardization of best practices will continue to progress as the technology, tools, and applications develop.
Leading the 5G Revolution
The technological advancements that 5G has enabled were once the stuff of science fiction. Autonomous cars, virtual reality gaming, “smart cities” and the IoT are just a few of the futuristic innovations with a long head start as they incorporate the bandwidth and latency improvements of 5G technology. As with any advancement in functional capability, the unlimited potential of 5G will spawn more creativity and a continuous stream of new applications.
This innovative energy ensures the deployment of 5G networks will continue to propagate as the migration towards standalone mode has begun to take shape. The challenges ahead mean demand for innovative and cost-effective 5G testing tools will continue unabated.
Since 2013, VIAVI has been an early driver in 5G adoption, partnering with the world’s top communication providers and network equipment manufacturers while delivering industry-leading solutions to customers year after year. The comprehensive portfolio of 5G test tools supports all phases of 5G deployment, with the adaptability required to assure quality and performance across all facets of the 5G landscape, making VIAVI a stand out amongst 5g testing companies. These powerful yet versatile test solutions tacitly support the greatest technology revolution of the 21st century.
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As networks evolve to LTE-Advanced and 5G networks, the timing and sync procedures you’ve used in the past may not be enough.