How do you know when there’s a problem with a service? For too many mobile operators, the answer is, “when customers call to complain.” It’s not an ideal strategy, even in simpler times. But today, as service providers roll out complex 5G networks and seek to expand their reach into enterprises, it won’t work at all. With disaggregated architectures, network slicing, and other innovations, 5G offers amazing opportunities to customize services and monetize them in new ways.
At the same time, these changes make networks far more dynamic and complex. Most mobile operators struggle to diagnose issues in 4G networks quickly and cost-effectively. In a 5G world, revenues increasingly depend on delivering guaranteed performance under service-level agreements (SLAs). If you can’t detect problems until after they’ve disrupted customers, you’re already too late.
To succeed, service providers need multi-layer network visibility, and the ability to detect and resolve problems before they violate SLAs. That’s exactly what Spirent’s groundbreakingplatforms deliver. Now, we’re extending these leading active testing solutions over the air with the (MTP).
An over-the-air (OTA) 4G/5G test agent, MTP provides the ability to monitor application and service KPIs as well as lower-layer network statistics. By running both ad-hoc and continuous testing, operators can measure performance all the way to the mobile device. And they can detect, segment, and remediate problems more quickly—often before they’re perceptible to customers. The results? Consistently excellent service experiences. Simpler, less expensive operations. Happier customers. And the ability to roll out new 5G services and revenue models with confidence.
Introducing the mobile test platform
Spirent’s MTP makes it easy to deploy and manage mobile test agents, providing a powerful solution for end-to-end OTA service visibility and active testing. Unlike other solutions, MTP software agents run on the same commercial handsets and software builds that subscribers use, along with our patent-pending remote management technology—all in a compact form factor that looks like a Wi-Fi router. Deployed in retail stores, base stations, or enterprise customer premises, it enables OTA testing on demand or on an ongoing basis, from anywhere.
With the Spirent MTP, operators can:
Gain end-to-end visibility: Most OTA issues are only discovered after the fact and have to be diagnosed via unscheduled (and expensive) drive testing. Now, you can perform systematic and ad hoc OTA testing from anywhere. By combining the MTP with agents in the Radio Access Network (RAN), xHaul, and core, you can test from multiple angles simultaneously to quickly segment issues.
Test more realistically: Unlike other mobile testing solutions, the MTP uses real commercial handsets. You can measure performance exactly as experienced by customers, including testing with the latest device software and security patches. The platform supports Samsung Galaxy S20-S23 handsets out of the box, with others available on request.
Simplify testing: Other mobile testing solutions use rooted devices, which require special builds, special arrangements with device manufacturers, and ongoing efforts to keep handsets up to date. With MTP, you can test with handsets using commercial software and accept security, configuration, and software updates as they are scheduled, reducing overhead and ensuring that you’re always testing against the same builds as customers are using.
Proactively assure services: When you can only test with real subscriber traffic, you won’t detect most problems until after they’ve disrupted customers. With the MTP, there’s no need to wait for a busy hour or for customers to try a particular service. By continuously testing against established KPIs, you can detect even hard-to-diagnose issues like periodic degradations—problems that won’t even show up with drive testing unless testers arrive at just the right time.
Easily deploy and manage agents: Mobile devices sometimes need to be physically rebooted. With other solutions, that means dispatching a skilled engineer—at a significant cost. Spirent’s patent-pending technology lets you manage thousands of devices from a centralized controller, including performing hard reboots. Even less-technical employees, like retail store managers, can install it in seconds. Just plug in the MTP, and it automatically calls home to self-activate. You can keep skilled experts servicing the entire network and customer base instead of constantly sending them out to remote locations.
Detect degradations in progress: By continually collecting network and service KPIs, the artificial intelligence at the heart of Spirent’s service assurance solutions can identify even a small degradation in quality and isolate its source to a specific geography, networking domain, and network function. For example, by analyzing network and OTA interfaces via MTP, it can detect when voice quality is trending down and isolate the cause long before the problem is perceptible to humans.
Mobile testing in action
Spirent’s MTP includes a large, growing library of test suites to run a wide range of data, voice, and application test cases (Figure 1). Each platform supports up to four SIMs to test multiple services (prepaid, post-paid, specific network slices), with the ability to connect to an external SIM server to support hundreds more. MTP agents measure service-level performance, as well as underlying control- and data-plane behavior, and provide data up to our service assurance platforms for analysis.
With these capabilities, you can perform OTA testing across the lifecycle of the network and services, including:
Activations: Most network problems are caused by a recent change. MTP can test after every service rollout or change and measure end-to-end performance without drive testing.
Performance monitoring: Run tests 24/7 from multiple points in the network to monitor. network and service KPIs. By combining MTP data with transport and core agents, you can quickly segment issues.
Fault isolation: Run workflows manually (such as when performing root cause analysis) or triggered automatically by a failure or other network event. With the ability to test from multiple points in the network simultaneously, you can quickly isolate issues down to the specific domain, network function, and interface.
The Spirent advantage
5G creates amazing new business opportunities—but only if you can navigate the complexity that comes with it. You’ll need more visibility, more insight, and more proactive diagnostic capabilities than ever before to understand next-generation customer experiences. With the MTP, you can extend Spirent’s industry-leading assurance intelligence over-the-air and gain end-to-end visibility into network services.
As a longtime leader in active testing, Spirent has helped the world’s largest service providers manage enterprise SLAs for more than 20 years. We can help you address not only the complexities of new 5G specifications, but the nuances of the diverse multi-vendor equipment in your network—because all major vendors (and many smaller ones) are also our customers. Let Spirent help you start tapping into the service experiences and revenue models of the future, today.
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