As 5G moves from a concept in the lab to a commercial field-deployable solution, network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) are working hard to ensure 5G delivers on its promise of gigabit throughput, massive machine type communication and ultra-reliable low latency communications. Time-to-market and conformance to 3GPP specs are key to their success and in achieving the 5G deployment goals set by operators around the world. However, 5G is very far from a trivial technology upgrade. 5G RAN is driving major architectural changes with 3D beamforming active antennas, higher-frequency service operation, spectrum flexibility, and stringent SLAs on backhaul and fronthaul among other things. Time-to-market and network deployment efficiency will be highly dependent on the rigor of test and measurement during the lab phase of the 5G technology life cycle. Performing comprehensive verification during the lab validation stage will ensure a smooth and efficient launch of the network.

Validating new technology in the lab is time consuming and costly. Engineers in the lab must perform pre-verification checks to ensure a good baseline for the test bed and the RF environment; any RF anomaly in the lab environment can invalidate the results. Additionally, validation of mmWave and massive MIMO is complex, costly and occasionally unreliable in an RF chamber. Beam performance validation is an essential test, but in a RF chamber it is not possible to map beam coverage and quality.

NEMs worldwide have been using VIAVI TM500 to run a set of core test cases in their labs to assess the performance of network features within a loaded network environment. TM500 is also used to test the quality of experience of subscribers with real-world user behavior under challenging test scenarios. As discussed earlier, 5G adds complexity to the overall test process.

For example, consider a lab set up with multiple TM500s (UE simulators), e/gNodeBs with different bands, and sub-carrier spacing and bandwidth up to 100MHz. Now add mmWave massive MIMO into the mix. Engineers in the lab need test solutions that provide better control of the test bed. With VIAVI CellAdvisor 5G, engineers can confidently validate the RF environment in a short amount of time. By combining the power of TM500 and CellAdvisor 5G, lab engineers can 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 or cable issues in the lab. This allows them to perform comprehensive system verification in the most efficient and timely manner and reduce unnecessary manual root cause analysis steps.

With CellAdvisor 5G complimenting the TM500, engineers can not only validate 3GPP features with a large number of UEs, but they can also calibrate each setup, do quick pre-checks, and troubleshoot the RF environment before long duration tests are performed. CellAdvisor 5G can also help engineers accurately check the layout of beam intensity with the help of its GPS capability, modulation quality and many other parameters, thereby significantly reducing the time to validate mmWave and beamforming.

In summary, 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

As 5G evolves from lab to field deployment, it is essential that NEMs have the confidence to validate all user scenarios in the lab in a timely and cost-efficient manner. 5G networks are more complex, driven by applications with different and more stringent demands on RF, latency and reliability. Having the right solutions in the lab will ensure a quick and smooth commercial network deployment with fewer field outages and customer complaints. Together, VIAVI TM500 and CellAdvisor can help NEMs deliver on that objective.

To see the solution in person, be sure to visit us at Mobile World Congress Barcelona in a few weeks!

Additional resources: 5G Testing and 5G Deployment.

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