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Spirent 5G Blog Series - A New Network

5G: Finding solid ground in a shifting network landscape

5G will unleash seismic benefits—fast speeds, low latency and high coverage density among them.

But reaping these rewards means planning with precision. After all, the pursuit of 5G has become a fast moving, complex puzzle, further complicated by the fact that it is still very much a work in progress. Standards are still being sorted. And devices and network equipment are nonexistent or in early beta stages.

Many service providers and manufacturers are taking a “full steam ahead” approach. But with so much unknown, how can they be sure that this dynamic, multi-layered, multi-vendor, virtualized and hybrid environment will actually work as planned?

5G represents a major departure from past network generations. So traditional test, verification and assurance processes that assume a limited number of services, a handful of devices and a more static, physical environment with separate silos for design, development and operations just won’t cut it anymore.

Planning for a network that is still evolving

Some recently introduced 5G standards utilize the existing LTE radio and core network for mobility management and coverage, while adding a new 5G radio carrier. Eventually, the new 5G radio will be deployed independently, creating an entirely new end-to-end network architecture. These stand-alone specifications were just released in June 2018.

As the industry sprints toward 5G commercialization, operators need a plan to deliver non-standalone and standalone 5G quickly, safely and cost efficiently. A solid testing strategy is a key component to this planning.

The three pillars of a 5G testing strategy

A comprehensive 5G testing strategy sets operators on the right path to successful deployment. The right strategy harmonizes continuous processes such as testing and validation, lab management, and launching and assuring networks and services across development and operational domains. It needs to include prototyping and risk mitigation techniques to address the realities of a complex, multi-layer and multi-vendor environment.

The promise of rapidly, safely and cost-effectively delivering 5G networks can be fulfilled by leveraging three innovations in testing and assurance:

Intelligent automation – 5G networks will see changes happen faster than humans can process. Intelligent automation will drive automated service turn-up and test, service assurance automation using test agents and synthetic traffic, automated troubleshooting, and automated analytics that transform test data into actionable insights. Operational agility and a heavy reliance on automation and machine intelligence will be needed to reduce the complexity and cost of testing, verifying and delivering 5G networks.

Network and traffic emulationNetwork emulation provides simple, cost-effective, repeatable and predictable testing of real-world conditions in a lab environment. It can play a pivotal role in simplifying the complex testing of networks and services to help validate readiness. A network emulator can test the performance of a real network, network functions, slices and services that are physically unavailable or are complex and costly to configure and access. Traffic patterns, impairments and security threats can also be emulated.

New test methodologies –The 5G core, the virtual infrastructure and the new multi-speed fronthaul Ethernet connectivity and high speed Ethernet backhaul performance all need to be tested. 5G also entails continuous testing across the lifecycle. This requires a new affordable and repeatable approach to testing and assurance that simplifies the validation process to ensure that the 5G system-under-test meets expectations. Analytics and machine learning will help speed and optimize testing so that services can be delivered faster and cost effectively.

Simplifying the complexity of 5G networks

Testing and assurance are critical for telecom services. That has never been more true than for services running on complex and dynamic 5G networks.

Follow our 5G blog series and download our Simplify 5G white paper to learn more about how automation, emulation and new test methodologies can reduce the complexity and economics of testing, verifying and delivering 5G networks.

Check back for more 5G assurance insights and join in the conversation by contacting us below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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