The proliferation of various next-generation technologies has not only made the world more connected and smart, but also brought to the fore the need for an efficient and robust test and measurement (T&M) ecosystem to test these technologies. According to a report by Re­se­arch and Markets, the global communications T&M market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9 per cent between 2018 and 2024. This growth will be driven by the adoption of internet of things (IoT), 5G, machine-to-machine (M2M) interaction, automation, and voice over long term evolution (VoLTE) technologies. looks at the testing needs of the new-generation technologies, and the challenges and opportunities that come with it…



5G promises several advantages such as enhanced speed and low latency and thus will be a key component of the IoT and smart cities ecosystem. However, in order to fully tap the benefits of 5G, it is important to have a high performing wireless link in 5G-enabled devices and services that will be rolled out in the market. In device testing, it is very difficult to determine the radio frequency performance as it is primarily dependent on the kind of device, and how and where it has been installed.

While traditionally tests for 3G and 4G were performed through coaxial cables in radio frequency (RF) labs, this cannot be the case for 5G devices. The absence of physical connectors and presence of RF architecture along with the use of higher frequency bands in 5G devices require the tests to be performed over the air (OTA). Although connecting mobile devices and test equipment through cables is easy and inexpensive, it does not provide accurate results because it is exclusive of the real conditions under which the devices operate. On the other hand, OTA enables en­gi­neers to get the real picture of what ac­tually happens when radio waves travel through the air back and forth between user devices and base stations.

One of the promises of 5G is that a lot of devices can work on the network simultaneously. This will need high throughputs, which can only be taken care of if there are high gain beamforming antennas. These high gain beamforming antennas will also be able to handle the in­crea­sed path losses occurring due to the presence of higher frequencies in 5G. The advent of 5G has also spurred the implementation of massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology, often termed as the “pre-5G” technology. Massive MIMO uses a high number of antennas, which enable the possibility of more signal paths and better performance in terms of data rate and link reliability. The presence of multiple small antenna elements and in-device processing have invariably shifted the focus from antenna testing towards system testing. This means that devices now need to be tested at the system level and, that too, in many different configurations.


According to Gartner, the number of IoT connections world over will increase from 8.4 billion in 2017 to 20.4 billion by 2020. Despite the impressive growth projections, the development of a robust IoT ecosystem will be laden with significant challenges. One of the biggest challenges is testing IoT devices and ensuring that they function as planned on the wireless networks. According to the industry, the major factors influencing IoT testing are  need for security, interoperability, battery management and electromagnetic emission management. Given the massive amount of data that gets transmitted through IoT devices, ensuring the security of IoT connections is important. Accor­ding to a study conducted by HP in 2014, 70 per cent of the IoT devices are vulnerable to attack. Thus the testing mechanism should be able to scan the vulnerabilities and accordingly suggest encryptions to protect the interfaces.

The ever-changing standards and communication needs of IoT devices are causing a physical shift in wireless device testing set-ups. While traditionally wireless testing was done for compatible devices such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets, the advent of IoT implies that it has to be done for devices of diverse sizes and forms. And so, at times, the physical structure of IoT devices can be an issue as it often lacks the provision for cable-based testing. This creates the need for OTA testing for IoT devices, through which the radio performance of these devices can be evaluated.


VoLTE technology started cutting inroads into the telecom sector in 2012 when it was first launched by South Korean operators. According to a report by Research and Markets, more than 140 mobile operators have commercially launched VoLTE services as of 2018. Further, VoLTE service revenue is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 30 per cent between 2018 and 2021. VoLTE technology delivers voice and other multimedia services over the LTE network, thereby enabling mobile operators to reduce reliance on legacy circuit switched networks. This migration to a data-centric LTE network has helped operators deliver greater capacity and lower latency to their consumers. The ever-enhancing quality of service (QoS) standards with regard to VoLTE technology and reduction in the time-to-market of VoLTE-enabled devices has created an urgent need for testing strategies to evolve in such a way that they are able to measure the right metrics, in the right environment and at the right time. T&M players need to use metrics that put a major emphasis on how end users will use the service over different interfaces, wireless headsets and Bluetooth. Also, a testing solution should be developed in such a way that it is able to use the same voice service measurement systems both in the field and in the lab.

Network function virtualisation

Network function virtualisation (NFV) helps operators run their operations in a more agile manner, thus helping them to reduce their operating and capital expenses significantly. NFV technology does this by decoupling network functions from the physical network equipment. Although the benefits are numerous, there are significant challenges in terms of deploying this technology. One of the major requirements of this technology is the creation of interoperability among the servers and virtual appliances from different vendors. Further, the implementation of NFV would have to coexist with operators’ legacy network equipment. Another concern for the operators deploying NFV technology is network security. T&M players need to take into account all these aspects while testing NFV technology. Also, the reliability of the technology is something that should be uncovered in its testing phase. The evolution to NFV should be able to meet the existing reliability standards of the carriers.

Challenges and the way forward

The increased pace of deployment of new technologies has also put forth a huge number of challenges and roadblocks for the T&M industry, which has to constantly innovate to address the growing and ever-changing needs of the telecom sector.  The time-to-market for new devices and technologies such as smart-phones, automated cars, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven chatbots, etc., has gone down significantly. This has been accompanied by a parallel increase in the technical complexity of these devices and technologies. Added to this is the constant need to maintain the QoS standards and deliver the best service to end consumers. When put together, all this creates significant pressure on tele­com­m­unication T&M vendors.

In order to effectively cater to the new needs of the industry, T&M players will have to up their investments in both re­sear­ch and development, and deploy new cutting-edge solutions and equipment best suited to meet the new testing needs. Further, it is necessary for these players to adopt testing techniques with innovative and flexible business models that are more in sync with the changing testing dynamics.

While the new-generation technologies have posed various challenges for the T&M players, they have also opened up new revenue opportunities. Due to the advent of technologies like IoT, AI, M2M, there has been a spurt in the number of start-ups that are constantly trying to tap this market. This has increased the customer base of T&M players manyfold, thus enhancing their revenue opportunities.