Every 5G device in a cell is connected to the internet or phone network via an antenna built into the cell. With the deployment of standalone 5G networks accelerating in 2021, the cloud will need to reinvent itself. Technology providers want a way to easily and effectively test 5G devices across a set of parameters, including speed, application output, scale, and more, as the world embraces 5G technologies. Wireless service providers will spend and expand their footprint on 5G in the next months, making quality assurance and testing a critical component for competitive advantage, customer satisfaction, and market sustainability. The 5G network has opened up new opportunities for companies as new gadgets will be required to endure the same network capabilities. This will impact testing because all apps will be needed to test on a network-eligible device. Machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) will be required in 5G network and service assurance solutions. To analyze the reams of data flowing in from the network in real time, AI or ML will be required, and it must be implemented at every stage of the assurance stack. As a result, the algorithms will be much more tailored to the individual application and will be able to deliver more reliable insights and forecasts about service quality. According to the Spirent 2021 5G Report, as operators accelerated their early 5G rollouts, service provider participation grew by more than 50% year over year (200 by the end of 2021). As market rivalry grew, over half of service provider activities were on service assurance and experience (including competitive benchmarking). Hence, 5G accelerated the deployment of new tests and assurance procedures in 2021.
Essential Types of Quality Assurance Testing
Quality assurance (QA) is a method of preventing errors and flaws in the production process, as well as problems in the delivery of products or services to clients.
In a multi-vendor network context, standards compliance is one of the most important parts of quality assurance and design validation of 5G products. QA testers would need to adjust their acceptance test strategy and confirm that the system was constructed following the 3GPP specification by the associated vendor. Furthermore, interoperability between 5G equipment from different vendors is only achievable if they are both compliant with the same specification and protocol. A 5G User Data Management product, for example, should be created to the 3GPP specification number 29.503, regardless of which manufacturer makes it.
When it comes to the 5G test life cycle, regression testing is very crucial, especially if a company practices DevOps and the Continuous Integration and Continuous Development (CI/CD) model. Each 5G software drop must be extensively regressed, and each iteration must be capable of capturing all types of software and related hardware problems, which must be rectified and confirmed with the highest level of quality in following DevOps software drops.
Customer happiness is heavily influenced by device interoperability. All Android and iOS-based user devices, such as smartphones and tablets, must be certified across the various 5G radio access and core network entities. Because Samsung Galaxy and iPhone smartphones have the largest market share, all generations of these devices must be properly researched for network vendor and original equipment manufacturer interoperability. 5G Wi-Fi calling, simulating a home Wi-Fi router as a cell site tower, must be tested on all iPhone versions.
Load and stress testing are required to ensure that the 5G system can handle the planned traffic load at a high volume. Busy Hour Calls (BHCA) that exceed the system's peak transaction per second (TPS) ensure that the system does not crash or the software does not dump a core. While trying to undertake load and stress testing to identify a 5G system's Key Performance Indicators, open-source tools like J-Meter and seagull, as well as free/trial versions of SOAP UI and Postman, could come in help (KPIs).
5G Testing: Framework, Parameters, and Phases
If the QA engineers create systems for the next generation of wireless networks, mobile app testing organizations will benefit. Due to the lack of cable access, devices must be evaluated via over-the-air (OTA) testing. For example, mobile app testing services firms confront a variety of test issues, including configuration, coverage, and repeatability. New techniques and methods must be used to evaluate 5G components and devices. Standard test architecture and measurement for multi-vendor wireless for 5G networks is critical for moving forward with design, configurations, characterization, production, and validation for hardware and software. Maintaining optimal performance with novel 5G testing methods can help stay ahead of the competition by reducing chamber testing while maintaining test coverage and accuracy.
The International Mobile Telecommunications Vision 2020 defines three scenarios for 5G telecommunications that differentiate it from 4G telecommunications:
- Ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (URLLC)
- Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)
- Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)
Agencies are looking into how to use 5G to better mission delivery and business operations, as well as deliver new apps and services that are impossible with 4G technology.
The 5G testing architecture is separated into four main phases based on the timeframe for introducing 3GPP 5G standards and the availability of 5G equipment and devices from vendors. For example, the first step builds a 5G non-freestanding architecture that uses the current 4G core network infrastructure, while the second phase updates the network core to 5G in a standalone mode. The framework's modular components are divided into architecture, application traffic, spectrum, network, and 5G innovations. Each paragraph offers a description of the test element as well as associated test and measurement equipment, as well as considerations (e.g., protocol analyzer). Not all elements are necessary for all testing; for example, if a real Radio Access Network (RAN) is unavailable, a simulated RAN might be employed. The framework finishes with a description of its security considerations and security metrics that an agency could collect using it. After implementing the framework, an agency could build/lease a test-bed from a carrier-grade equipment manufacturer, perform testing using existing external labs/testbeds (e.g., government lab, university lab, coordination with the Department of Defense), or use a combination of the two.
What are the Parameters Used to Test 5G Networks?
Phases of Testing Capabilities
- Verification & Validation: Verify virtual network functionalities and network services (5G Lab System Verification & 5G Field Validation) to assure immediate quality and dependability once the network is implemented. Network virtualization, network performance, baseline & benchmarking, and network automation will be the emphasis areas for quality assurance in this phase.
- Deployment and Activation: Activation of 5G test tools and tools/platforms to monitor network performance is required after successful 5G network and infrastructure deployment. Performance monitoring, advanced fiber testing, radio testing (C-RAN), and compliance testing are the main areas of concentration in this phase.
- Assurance & Optimization: Verification of virtual network functionalities (5g Lab system Verification & 5G Field Validation) and network services to ensure immediate quality and dependability once the network is implemented. During this phase, the focus is on user experience, IoT assurance, robotic automation, device testing, and user acceptability testing.