Automation is key to testing, managing and optimizing 5G networks

VIAVI: ‘With 5G, the whole paradigm has to shift about how networks are managed’

VIAVI Director of Marketing Kashif Hussain spoke with RCR Wireless News about the results of VIAVI’s State of 5G Deployments Report, admitting that he found himself quite surprised by the volume of 5G deployments, particularly in North America. He also provided some insight into the new test and measurement challenges that 5G presents, and how automation may be the solution.

Q: How is test and measurement changing in the era of 5G?

Testing is becoming more complicated. Take Verizon and some others who are going after [enhanced mobile broadband]deployment because they want higher throughput. How do you get there? There were a lot of challenges we saw on the radio link. How do you validate the radio link? How do you prevent interference? How do you make sure that when using such wide spectrum that you’re truly getting the benefit out of it?

The validation of these things come with a lot of challenges, but we’ve worked with a lot of carriers to address them. For all major service providers in North America, validating the air interface was key. Validating the fiber interfaces was key, as well, because, while multiplexing was simple back in the day — you had just one fiber and you could do a simple power check — now, you are doing multiplexing in the fiber and multiple channels are being transmitted. If you do not perform proper testing of the fiber interfaces, you will run into trouble because if you’re expecting, let’s say, 400 megabits per second, you will not be able to get it because your radio will not be able to perform. Instead of one fiber, you have multiple fibers, and you have multiplexing going on. And now you have to scale up the project. You cannot spend the time validating each and every radio.

Because of this, process automation is needed, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in test automation, as well.

Q: Can you talk more about the role of automation in 5G networks?

Let’s take what Verizon wanted to do. They actually implemented a 100 MHz channel. With a 100 MHz channel, it’s very easy to reach a throughput in the gigabit range. But can you imagine the scale, if that’s the direction you want to? Because the difference between the scale of mmWave coverage versus the scale of 600 MHz is like day and night. You would need hundreds and hundreds of sites to cover that same amount of space.

And if you deploy hundreds and hundreds of sites, you then have to manage hundreds and hundreds of sites. Typically, a service provider has about 50-60 cell sites and one technician to take care of them. Now, you’re talking about a scale in which a single regional area may have thousands of cell sites. How are you going to manage it? That is where automation will be the key.

The whole paradigm has to shift about how networks are managed. The testing, managing and optimization of networks has to be automated. My lens is always one of test and measurement, right? Technology is cool, but how do you validate and implement it? You have to have a solid test and measurement plan and automation is a big part of that plan.

 

This Q&A was featured in a larger report that can be downloaded here for free. 

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