The Importance of 5G Testing
5G will be an innovation platform that will provide the ability to bring new services to market quickly with use cases that will allow ultra-fast mobile broadband, mission critical communication, massive device connectivity, and ultra-low latency. How networks and their different components will evolve will be nothing short of a revolution; we will see network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) and service providers (SPs) moving away from proprietary network components to common off-the-shelf components to improve service agility, but none of that going to happen overnight.
5G technology is driving major changes across the entire network, from highly flexible RAN architecture and 3D beamforming active antennas to software-defined network components, with stringent timing and latency requirements. Mission-critical applications will demand a network which cannot fail, and ensuring network quality will be at the core of deployment. Just like other 3GPP technologies, 5G networks will evolve across multiple 3GPP releases. This is generally done to ensure SP investments deployed in the field are protected and ROI and customer experience is not compromised.
The earliest 5G deployments will be based on non-stand-alone configuration, where existing 4G infrastructure will be used, though radios will be capable of providing services to 5G-capable devices. In this initial phase of 5G deployment, the focus will be on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) to provide increased data bandwidth and connection reliability. Unlike LTE, 5G NR will support higher-frequency operation from day one. Frequency range one (FR1) overlaps and extends 4G LTE frequencies, operating from 450 MHz to 6 GHz, whereas FR2 operates at a much higher frequency range and in the first release will support up to 52.6 GHz.
5G NR will introduce flexible spectrum usage with scalable numerology, dynamic TDD, massive MIMO and beam forming, all of which will introduce greater challenges in the field for RF engineers validating, testing and optimizing the 5G network.
As mentioned above, deploying and supporting 5G’s complex technology and network architecture will not be a trivial exercise. Time-to-market and network quality will depend on the rigor of test and measurement during the complete lifecycle of the network.
In a 5G environment, downlink validation requires the ability to validate active antenna beam configuration as well as channel performance and quality. SPs and NEMs will require the ability to quickly identify any downlink (DL) anomalies such as variability in next Generation Node B (gNB) behavior, DL channel power, degraded DL modulation quality, beamforming performance, or any antenna and cable issues.
Remember, to deliver on the 5G promise–to achieve 5G throughput and enhanced cell performance using beamforming–user equipment (UE) should be able to perform beam tracking and switching. The VIAVI CellAdvisor 5G beamforming analyzer function allows engineers to analyze the entire 5G carrier in both FR1 and FR2 and can provide an accurate characterization of the active antenna beams to allow for quick troubleshooting and identification of root causes of poor RF performance.
With the help of CellAdvisor 5G, the following DL configuration and performance indicators can be monitored:
- g/eNB channel bandwidth
- Channel center frequency
- Correct cell IDs
- Modulation quality
- Received power
- Active antenna beam performance
- Channel stability
CellAdvisor 5G can also be used in controlled field trials as well as early campaign-based trials to measure and record field beamforming characteristics, quality, and impairments. CellAdvisor 5G is the industry’s first true 5G base station analyzer for large-scale deployments.