As operators rollout 5G services that are already enjoying increased demand, it’s become clear that rigorous, continuous and effective testing is required to ensure service performance. But, what do you need to look for in a 5G test platform? Here’s a quick guide to help you choose.
It should go without saying that any 5G test platform must support current 5G standards – NSA Option 3x support, as well as other interfaces such as S1-AP and S1-U, for example - to ensure coverage of both control and data planes. However, while that’s important, it’s equally important to look ahead to the next phase of 5G deployments – full standalone architecture.
Any 5G test platform worth its salt must provide a future-proof solution. With operators planning their migration to full 5G-NSA, the right tools need to be in place to support test and verification of the new services this will bring, both pre-launch and once in service.
5G rollout is a continuous process, that benefits from new, agile DevOps processes, so it’s not a one-off event. Operators need to test, test and test again, because the network will evolve, all the time.
5G NSA may bring a new radio interface and RAN, but as you’ll know, it still depends on the EPC, albeit in its new virtual form. In addition, connectivity to the IMS remains essential for the delivery of current IMS and VoLTE services.
As such, a 5G test platform should offer the flexibility to be positioned at a wide range of interfaces, emulating services from different perspectives. Emulating user traffic from the GnB to the MME and/or SGW-U is one thing, but what about the IMS domain? A robust 5G test platform must be able to be repositioned to allow both end-to-end as well as ‘wraparound’ testing, enabling each entity to be tested in sequence or as a system.
While current adoption rates are relatively low, that will soon change. So, 5G eMBB (and future services enabled by 5G-SA, such as massive IoT and URLLC) demand will grow – massively. That means that a 5G test platform must offer the requisite verification capabilities at scale, covering millions of users – and covering the traffic that they generate. What happens to performance under different loads? At different times? With sudden, volatile events and the dynamic introduction of new capabilities? Scale matters, so this cannot be overlooked.
Achieving scale is essential, but it’s just as important to model real situations. A 5G test platform should be capable of generating real traffic, from real subscriber identities, so that it can reflect the actual profile of traffic that is experienced in the network.
As more users migrate to 5G services, the traffic profiles will change: not all users do the same thing, and individual traffic consumption will change through time. Network conditions change, leading to variations in event timing, such as call setup times, as well as traffic consumption patterns. These must be reflected in the traffic profiles, so that operators can be sure that they are emulating real situations, as experienced in their network and as they change through time. This is a must, because the only way to expose performance issues will be through the adoption of test programmes that explore actual circumstances, as well as unusual and unexpected events.
Most operator 5G networks do not exist in isolation. They do not typically deliver universal coverage, either. So, users will move from 5G to 4G and even to other legacy environments, depending on the coverage available to them. Legacy networks will persist for the foreseeable future and 5G must coexist happily with them.
This means that 5G testing cannot be considered on its own. A 5G test platform must be capable of supporting different legacy interfaces, so that handover scenarios can be considered, under different traffic loads and for different services. It is essential to be able to adopt a holistic view, such that all combinations can be explored, effectively and from a single 5G test platform.
At Emblasoft, we’ve considered all of these requirements, and the result is Evolver. Evolver is a comprehensive 5G test platform that offers rich functionality to enable full testing of 5G and legacy networks, at scale and with real traffic, enabling complex scenarios to be tested in live and captive networks. It even enables random changes to be introduced – for example, changing call setup times to reflect variable network conditions.
Evolver supports your complete 5G rollout and migration to the next phase. So, if you’re wondering how to meet the 5G test challenge, get in touch with our team to find out how we can help.