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Why Lab to Live Testing Is Critical for New 5G Services

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5G is driving innovation on many fronts, yet expectations are high in terms of what 5G can deliver, and new services will come with stringent service-level agreements (SLAs). To ensure networks and services offered meet the 5G promises their customers expect, mobile operators must deal with the complexity of a new architecture.

It is widely known that 5G is driving innovation on many fronts. By design, 5G helps address a broader market, bringing in new opportunities in terms of services for segments like B2B and B2B2C through supporting a diverse range of industry use cases. For mobile operators, this is a huge opportunity. 5G is still in its early stages of development and 5G core networks, as well as service upgrades, are only beginning. Yet expectations are high in terms of what 5G can deliver, and new services will come with stringent service-level agreements (SLAs).

To ensure networks and services offered meet the 5G promises their customers expect, mobile operators must deal with the complexity of a new architecture, as well as the urgency of developing new services at a pace that enables them to capture this opportunity to transform and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving market.

Complexity and urgency mean development cycles must become more agile

Alongside opportunities, 5G also brings a wide array of complexities which should not be overlooked.

First, the diverse industry use cases that 5G promises to support represent a scaling factor as many more services will need to be supported. Moreover, these use cases come with varying demands, such as Quality of Service (QoS) and latency requirements, which will inevitably include specific SLAs based on the different services they will offer.

Second, increased complexity exists around the new 5G architecture. New standards and technology trends, like Open RAN, virtualisation, and cloudification, are becoming vital components, which will allow the next cycle of innovation at the network and service level to flourish. However, these trends also involve a disaggregation of network functions as they are being migrated to the cloud and pushed to the edge of the network. This introduces a massive amount of change compared to legacy networks. These new challenges, alongside the urgency to take full advantage of what 5G can offer, means that innovation must occur at a faster pace. Development cycles need to become more agile. But innovation also requires accelerated iteration to deal with the complexities of the new 5G architecture, continuous network development and integration, and to support releases of network improvements and new services.

A new paradigm of achieving continuous rapid validation, supported by state-of-the-art automation, is required. The old model of batch-mode testing and releases every 3 to 6 months must be replaced to support a steady stream of continuous changes and improvements. This requires a complete change in the traditional approach to testing, validation, and deployment.

Next-gen testing and assurance become critical in enabling swift releases, empowering SLAs and ensuring QoE

Meeting stringent SLAs on a more complex and dynamic network, while striving to innovate new services, will challenge operators like never before. Adoption of the right testing and assurance strategies helps mitigate these challenges to ensure a solid foundation for deployment, accelerate time-to-market and foster a first-mover advantage. The ability to proactively test services is essential to validate SLAs to guarantee superior QoS. Active testing becomes a critical component of this process as it enables assurance across the entire service lifecycle – from lab to live – i.e., from initial design and development, through to live operations.

And while many more services will be delivered, and at a faster cadence to enable innovation, active testing of the live network will play a major role in supporting swift releases though its ability to emulate real-world traffic to test the service before live traffic is available. Further, its “always on” capability means it is proactively identifying faults, potentially before the user has experienced them.

As user experience monitoring becomes an indicator of customer satisfaction, service providers will measure factors that impact user experience the most. Active assurance provides real-time Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics, which are essential for validating SLAs before service activation, while maintaining real-time, end-to-end visibility of the network to ensure SLAs are sustained at the level required.

For more insights, view the full report, Analysys Mason: Assuring 5G and Cloud Edge Applications.

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Justin Van der Lande

Research Director, Analysys Mason

Justin van der Lande leads the Applications practice, which is part of Analysys Mason’s Telecoms Software and Networks research stream. He specializes in business intelligence and analytics tools, which are used in all telecoms business processes and systems. In addition, Justin provides technical expertise for Analysys Mason in consultancy and bespoke large-scale custom research projects. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the communications industry in software development, marketing, and research. He has held senior positions at NCR/AT&T, Micromuse (IBM), Granite Systems (Telcordia) and at the TM Forum. Justin holds a BSc in Management Science and Computer Studies from the University of Wales.