End-to-end network testing has the edge for 5G
The hotly anticipated arrival of 5G is seemingly on the horizon, writes Ultan Kelly, a product line manager at VIAVI Solutions. Following the recent spectrum auctions in the UK, operators are now beginning network trials to ensure the viability of their networks for 5G roll-out.
We’ve been hearing about the many exciting use cases for 5G for some time, from driverless cars through to remote robotic surgery. The possibilities are endless, but all of these use cases have one commonality; they require networks that can support low latency and high bandwidth connectivity.
There will be an estimated 20.1 billion connected things in use by 2020 and networks and operators need to grow and test their networks to keep pace with the evolution of IoT technology and consumer demand. IoT devices generate relatively small amounts of data per unit, yet their increasing number will generate masses of data as a whole.
Traffic generated by these IoT end points is unpredictable and largely unknown when compared to traditional voice and data traffic. This will cause a signalling overload on the network that will result in the degradation of service quality, impacting both IoT devices and those traditional voice and data traffic streams – and the subscribers that pay most of the bills.
Operators therefore need to test their networks and validate their performance against large traffic volumes, to determine bottlenecks, protect mission critical services and help plan for the next wireless core upgrade.
Connected cars are just one example of a use case that will depend on various types of connectivity. These include vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-environment communication, with sensors sending and transceiving data to build a picture of their surroundings and adjust factors such as emissions and navigation accordingly. Making sure networks can juggle all of these data streams is no easy feat. Going further, in smart cities we’ll have all this traffic, as well as that from mission critical systems all the way down to car passengers streaming films on their smartphones.
Network testing has evolved to mean we can now emulate millions instead of thousands of devices and scenarios like those outlined above, through scalable, automated and cost-effective solutions in a lab, data centre or cloud environment. As such, operators are able to test the ability of their networks to support the huge array of current and potential connected IoT end-points, whilst at the same time delivering consistent, reliable connectivity for traditional mobile voice and data services.
We have to continue to move things to the edge of the network. Many components of the mobile core network need to be moved closer to the end user, at the mobile edge, in order to reduce latency and traffic load, and increase bandwidth on the network. This will see the convergence of the radio access network (RAN) and core networks and will require operators to take new approaches to network testing and validation. This approach also allows resources to be flexibly increased or reduced, according to demand.
It is only through the use of complete, end-to-end RAN-to-core testing and validation solutions that operators will be able to gain a complete view of their network and determine how it performs under the demands of real-world traffic scenarios.
This approach allows users to future-proof their networks, identifying potential issues with their infrastructure and addressing these to create a viable foundation for the development of the IoT, and eventual deployment of 5G.