Stephen Douglas, head of 5G practice, Spirent Communications

There is a tendency to hype the next big developments in tech years before they can be widely deployed. Few technologies have been buzzed about with more fanfare and promises than 5G. It is the answer to competitive challenges, flat revenues and insatiable mobile data demand from consumers and businesses alike. 5G promises to transform our world and power a new industrial and social revolution. We are talking about great expectations.

Assuring this promise is possible, but it requires navigating unprecedented change. That means planning for a completely new and highly intricate technologies and architectures,to meet the most demanding requirements of 5G applications.An exciting shift is happening and the modern mobile network is under vast, unpredictable levels of stress, as network services and devices are getting more and more complex. As networks evolve to 5G, SD-WAN and NFV, service providers need new methods for assuring the network. Think customer expectations are high today? With 5G, they will become downright formidable. Getting there will be an intense journey but the rewards will be well worth it.

Blazing speeds and more
The 5G performance improvements that have been lauded are certainly worthy of excitement and anticipation:
• Blazing fast speeds with peak data rates 100 times faster than 4G.
• Vast coverage density that can support one million devices for every square kilometer.
• Large area traffic capacity up to 10Mbps per square mile.
• Latencies as low as one to five milliseconds.

These feats, delivered via mobile networks, are transformational. Industries from agriculture and automotive to shipping and manufacturing stand to benefit. And demand will skyrocket fast. For instance, Gartner has already anticipated that 21 billion IoT devices will invade networks in 2020. Planning for this level of complexity and adoption requires right insights, resources and collaborative environment.

Bringing clarity to 5G complexity
5G will introduce a new core, radio, spectrum, devices, and physical and virtual infrastructure. This means complex new antennas and chipsets, new KPIs, new vendors, cloud distributions and new spectrum frequencies. And it all must work perfectly together.

Compounding this complexity is the urgency with which many operators are moving. They are staking the future of their business on critical investments being made now, unable to wait for all standards groups and alliances to agree on a common path forward. In this scenario, test and assurance become critical to assuring the promise of delivering transformational 5G services.

Assuring the promise of 5G
We’ve only begun to imagine the use cases that 5G will make a reality. But we do know that innovation will span an untold number of industries and applications.

This technology and business transformation calls for a dynamic service assurance approach that will ensure flawless 5G performance and use of advanced automation processes that expedite testing. From channel emulators to over-the-air testing, an end-to-end agile approach to service assurance is necessary to assure the promise of 5G. The network operators need to proactively test the network before going live and continuously monitor it afterwards. Active Assurance is the only way to address these critical needs.

Telecom operators are accelerating system testing, spanning a range of network elements and complex procedures to bring higher stability &endurance and reduce the complexity & costs of 5G testing, while accelerating 5G innovation and time to revenue.