5G private networks offer a host of benefits, including high performance and reliability to address multiple critical wireless communication requirements.
Over the last few years, private network solutions have grown quickly in flagship enterprise sites, particularly manufacturing or mining facilities. However, products for these market segments cannot scale to new areas more sensitive to price or complexity. It is with this in mind that telecommunications providers such as Telefónica are developing solutions to address emerging enterprise, public, and internet of things (IOT) use cases.
Telefónica’s new generation of private 5G products address these opportunities by reducing the cost structure and providing a simple user experience design (UX) and operating model. To meet individual needs, the operator offers dedicated 5G connectivity and edge compute alongside a portfolio of vertical-specific value-added services. But managing the solution can be challenging, partly due to complexity because private 5G products are comprised of multiple components.
Telefónica’s approach goes beyond the basics of the access network and core component and their respective management systems. It also includes an orchestrator and edge compute as well as the value-added services deployed on top. This requires Telefónica to integrate and operate a diverse stack of software, hardware and management elements.
5G private networks arrive at a time when the telecommunications industry is undergoing a major transformation. Unlike earlier generations of network upgrades, 5G expands the supplier ecosystem to embrace software defined network functions that bring agility and innovation. This move away from a legacy approach of using a few vendors offering the full vertical stack towards a framework where dozens are involved raises significant challenges. It’s not just about complexity: the softwarization of connectivity solutions requires an acceleration of the product release cycle to allow multiple releases each month.
At the same time, there is a need to test and validate that all the infrastructure and functions of the largely software-based architecture can work together as intended to comply with 3GPP standards and deliver performance as expected.
Traditional validation models are not built to manage this, which is why Telefónica has taken a continuous integration, deployment, and testing (CI/CD/CT) approach to its 5G rollout. This approach helps simplify operations by moving away from manual lifecycle management and reducing the potential for human error. The result is more flexibility to increase speed and lower the cost of deployment.
As part of this, test and assurance platforms are critical, which is why Telefónica has partnered with Spirent to implement an automated process to manage the systematic testing, update, and deployment of its private 5G solution. The implementation uses a combination of Spirent’s comprehensive and fully automated test suite with Telefónica’s assurance and automation solutions based on a cloud stack that introduces massive automation to manage the complexity of integrating multiple components.
Spirent’s virtualised, cloud-nativesolution connects via VPN into the Telefónica 5G Automation Platform – which manages deployment, configuration, and testing of the components and value-added services required to give functionality to the customer.
This platform uses different technologies for each stage, such as Jenkins, Terraform, Ansible and Robot Framework. Focusing on testing, the Robot framework oversees the launch of customized test suites with Landslide, checking basic requirements and other KPIs including compound metrics such as success rates of different operations.
Testing private 5G comprehensively, continuously, and consistently
Among the benefits, Landslide provides a pre-packaged set of tests across compliance, capacity, performance, and security that Telefónica can use to test its private 5G network comprehensively, continuously, and consistently.
Landslide replaces an existing solution based on Windows test software running on local server infrastructure alongside physical appliances within its lab. The legacy solution was limited in its deployment flexibility and didn’t have the ability to scale performance to meet the growing needs of Telefónica’s engineering team. It was also limited in its automation and API support, which made it difficult for Telefónica to automate its test and assurance processes in line with its CI/CD goals.
Using Landslide, Telefónica’s engineering team can now define a test plan, validate it, then automate it using the platform’s automation software. As a result, Telefónica has been able to deliver enhanced automation with a 3x faster test and assurance process combined with better flexibility through APIs and a cloud-based workflow. The solution allowed Telefónica to define and test a range of service tiers and SLAs ahead of the launch to enterprise customers.
Landslide also provides deeper insights into Telefónica’s infrastructure layer for ongoing service optimisation and troubleshooting as it starts rolling out live services to its first wave of enterprise clients.
Learn more about this important collaboration in the joint white paper,.
Spirent would like to thank Jorge Moratinos Salcines, Senior Automation Expert in Telefónica R&D Connectivity Innovation Area, and Daniel García Sánchez, Senior Network Expert at Telefónica R&D, for their close alignment and significant contributions to this blog and white paper.