After a period of stagnation between 2015 and 2017, the test and measurement (T&M) industry has started seeing some exciting times since last year. The emergence of next-generation technologies such as 5G and internet of things (IoT) is giving a new impetus to the industry. 5G is expected to be a game changer for the way we communicate and control devices and machines. 5G networks promise an era of ubiquitous, secure and high-capacity radio networks. With extremely low latency levels, high energy efficiency and high Gbps capacity, the applications of 5G extend beyond traditional telecom to a plethora of industries and fields including connected vehicles, smart cities, and tele-health services.
The International Telecommunication Union-Radiocommunication Sector defines three significant areas of usage and applications as part of its 5G initiative:
- Enhanced mobile broadband: Cater to the growing demand for ubiquitous broadband connectivity with high data rates, connection density and mobility.
- Massive IoT: Connectivity for millions of devices transmitting sensitive data.
- Ultra-reliable low latency services (URLCC): Reliable connectivity with stringent requirements for latency and throughput.
The deployment of 5G networks across the globe is moving at a rapid pace, much faster than expected initially, and standards are evolving very quickly. Countries like the US, South Korea, China and Japan are in the forefront of deployment. In India, 5G deployment is expected to begin in phases, starting in middle to late 2020. However, despite the potential benefits, 5G networks are still evolving and operators are very sceptical about the return on investment (RoI), given the heavy investment needed for deployment.
The use of millimetre-wave frequency for 5G networks makes all aspects of the network -the backbone, access and device – all the more complex and challenging, putting tremendous importance on testing at the right time and in the right way. T&M companies are working very hard to meet the ever-evolving and challenging testing requirements of the industry.
5G testing challenges and solutions
The development of new network concepts and technologies for 5G calls for corresponding improvements and modifications in testing methods and processes as well. 5G test methods must provide an assurance to operators that the new technology and services are being implemented as per the latest specifications, with the best quality of service that meets industry standards.
A comprehensive and fully data-centric 5G network would require stand-alone testing. Test automation, monitoring and built-in test systems will be essential for analysing the performance of such a network.
The emergence of scenarios where ultra-dense networks are being used for interconnecting the radio access elements with the backhaul architecture using cloud will lead to the development of cloud-based test services. This will help in testing everything from everywhere. Interestingly, while the growing usage of software-defined networking/network functions virtualisation and cloud services will introduce new test requirements, these same technologies will also help in creating new test solutions. Therefore, cloud technology is being seen as both a creator of T&M demand and the solution for 5G network testing.
Outlook for the Indian market
With 4G getting commercialised, there is a surging demand for T&M solutions in the Indian market. Progress on digital transformation and programmes like Digital India and Make in India are also driving the demand for T&M equipment and solutions at various stages of technology evolution such as research and development, validation, deployment, maintenance and optimisation of networks. Given its huge market size, India is expected to continue to create huge demand for both legacy as well as new technology T&M.
Going forward, the T&M market in India is poised for a new wave of growth with emerging technologies like 5G, narrowband internet of things and V2X. Companies like Anritsu are strongly positioned to meet the new testing challenges. As part of the development of mobile communications systems through 3G and onwards to 4G, Anritsu has worked on evaluating customers’ products in cooperation with vendors of chipsets and communications modules as well as terminal makers, helping accumulate know-how about various technologies including signalling, protocol and radio-frequency measurement, which form the basis of the company’s product strengths.