by Sylvain Nadeau, Director – Strategic Innovation & 5G CoE
In October 2022, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the federal government’s investment of $15.9 million to support a $77 million project with EXFO to create a 5G center of excellence (CoE) in Montreal. I’m delighted to report that a great deal of positive work has happened since then!
EXFO has made significant progress on its 5G strategic plan to address the urgent need for 5G testing, monitoring and troubleshooting. EXFO has developed an AI-powered sensing platform capable of dynamically detecting and predicting outages and impairments in 5G networks. At the same time, EXFO has developed innovative, advanced testing solutions tailored for 5G networks, progressing the industry as a whole. In this blog we’ll explore some of the key outcomes, share background on the 5G CoE, and explore how EXFO is accelerating 5G adoption.
“EXFO’s 5G Center of Excellence serves as the driving force behind the majority of 5G development initiatives at EXFO, fueling innovation and providing our customers with essential support for the deployment, expansion, and operation of 5G networks in Canada and worldwide.” - EXFO CEO Philippe Morin
EXFO CoE achievements to date:
- Since the inception of EXFO’s 5G CoE on July 9, 2021, hundreds of EXFO employees and 30 talented students have contributed to the work related to the 5G CoE. Moreover, this collaborative effort has resulted in the submission of 18 innovative patents.
- Several new products have been launched in the market, such as the advanced real-time troubleshooting EXFO Reveal and the fiber inspection probe FIP-500, while many others – including the 5GPro Spectrum Analyzer, the adaptive service assurance EXFO ASA Platform, and the scalable QoS and QoE monitoring EXFO Active – have been enhanced to expedite the adoption of 5G.
- EXFO’s 5G Centre of Excellence has reinforced the collaboration with leading Canadian applied research organizations. EXFO is part of the Industry-Academia research partnership under the Canadian government’s MITACS Accelerate program and this program aligns EXFO R&D resources with student researchers.
- EXFO collaborates on applied research initiatives with Concordia University (Montreal) and Université Laval (Quebec City). Master’s students and their supervisors contribute to applied research in Machine Learning and in fiber optic testing technologies with EXFO research scientists.
Some background – What is the 5G CoE all about?
EXFO 5G CoE combines telecommunications expertise with AI-centric technologies to develop and commercialize new AI-based platforms that support deployment and operation of next-generation 5G telecom networks.
EXFO’s 5G initiative, headquartered in Montreal, leverages expertise and contributions from throughout the company’s global locations.
Addressing the urgent need for 5G probing and troubleshooting
EXFO has answered the call to address the immediate need for 5G probing and troubleshooting through its Adaptive Service Assurance (ASA) solution.
Network operators require 5G probes and troubleshooting applications to deploy and operate their 5G mobile core and 5G network edge sites. EXFO has developed an innovative, highly scalable, high-capacity cloud-native system for advanced real-time troubleshooting leveraging its EXFO Reveal platform. Built on the virtual cloud network unified data handling solution and 5G cloud-native probe innovations, EXFO enables network operators to remotely monitor, control and troubleshoot the network in real time. This solution offers an unprecedented level of performance to capture and troubleshoot up to 40 Gbps of data plus associated signaling information.
EXFO recently announced that TPG Telecom and Ericsson have launched an Australia-first with analytics leveraging EXFO Reveal. This is a good example of how the EXFO Reveal advanced real-time troubleshooting solution helps network operators perform trace-level troubleshooting from Core-to-RAN-to-device-to-subscriber, with deep packet inspection, protocol decoding, and CP-UP correlation. Moreover, programmable tracing policies can be applied to the cloud-native probes, triggered by end users, third-party apps, AI-powered analytics, and automated diagnosis platforms.
EXFO Reveal advanced real-time troubleshooting solution
Leveraging intelligence with an AI-powered sensing platform
The EXFO ASA Platform provides contextual, end-to-end 5G network visibility from RAN to core. This technology reveals the invisible factors driving network performance while delivering exceptional customer experience.
The EXFO ASA Platform leverages AI and machine learning to dynamically detect, predict, and diagnose customer-impacting events in real time using AI-driven analytics. More specifically, it predicts and detects outages and impairments in mobile and fixed, physical, and virtual networks; it classifies, correlates and groups abnormal events affecting network performance and user experience; and it isolates fault location and diagnoses root cause to drive efficient, coordinated, prescriptive action.
In early 2023, EXFO announced that the UK National Grid selected EXFO for an innovative fiber health monitoring pilot project – an industry-first combination of Intellisense Systems weather tracking plus remote fiber testing, monitoring, and AI analytics solutions from EXFO designed to predict and prevent operational failures. This is a good example of the value the EXFO ASA Platform can bring, determining event impact, origin, and root cause to prioritize and accelerate fault resolution and proactively optimize user experience. It enables proactive network management by forecasting, isolating, and resolving problems, improving network quality and reliability by identifying potentially serious issues before they escalate to actual problems.
EXFO ASA AI-sensing solution – Timeline view
Advanced testing solutions tailored for 5G networks
EXFO has developed several advanced testing solutions to reduce 5G infrastructure installation time by increasing measurement quality for fiber deployment and 5G antenna installation.
EXFO recently released the FIP-500, the fastest inspection scope in the industry for both single-fiber and multi-fiber connectors, with highly reliable results. This self-contained, fully automated tool enables zero-button testing all day—without the need to recharge batteries or offload results. The FIP-500 can be used in many applications, such as Fiber-to-the-Antenna (FTTA) to inspect the end-face of optical fibers used to connect the remote radio head (RRH) to the base station.
EXFO has also continued to enhance its Remote Fiber Testing and Monitoring (RFTM) system that provides end-to-end link testing, diagnostics, and proactive monitoring for any type of fiber network – vital to support 5G network fiber backhaul operation.
EXFO's Remote Fiber Testing and Monitoring
EXFO has released the 5GPro Spectrum Analyzer with over-the-air (OTA) measurements that delivers an easy-to-perform and easy-to-interpret experience. Ready to adapt as the network transforms, this flexible, modular platform lets field techs and RF engineers analyze FR1 (sub-6 GHz) including CBRS/C-bands, and FR2 (mmWave) bands with a single solution for extreme flexibility and upgradeability.
EXFO's 5GPro Spectrum Analyzer
The EXFO Active solution has been significantly enhanced and is now integrated into the ASA platform. Active testing and monitoring are essential to 5G, from core-to-edge and device-to-slice, as it provides gapless visibility into distributed services to enable rapid instantiation and closed-loop control.
The EXFO Active solution is the most scalable QoS and QoE monitoring available, delivering a flawless customer experience over dynamic, virtualized networks and services. It assures voice, video, network and application performance and it dynamically identifies network impairments affecting user experience and service performance, and pinpoints where issues originate and how they relate.
With the advanced pace of research and development enabled by the infusion of funding from the federal government, plus EXFO’s dedication to 5G innovation and the telecom industry’s focus on 5G/6G and beyond, we anticipate continued progress and breakthroughs. Watch this space for more updates on how EXFO’s 5G CoE will leverage AI/ML to pave the way for rapid 5G adoption globally.