Whether to deliver truly immersive virtual reality, enable mission-critical communications, or support IoT devices, networks need to become faster, smarter and able to handle more in every way. What the primary 5G deployment use cases identified by 3GPP–eMBB, URLLC and mMTC–have in common are the need for higher data rates, stricter latency requirements and extreme reliability. How they differ is the performance level required for each of those network attributes, as dictated by the services that each of the three 5G use cases enable. Building a scalable, high-performing and efficient network will be necessary in order to bring 5G innovations to life and quickly monetize their resulting services.
As the journey to deliver the full promise of 5G begins, EXFO has been supporting forward-thinking network operators and equipment vendors worldwide in their 5G trials and deployments through customized insights, methodologies and tools.
One of the biggest challenges facing NEMs and operators as they prepare for 5G is the need to validate new types of ubiquitous fronthaul transport equipment capable of transporting a mix of technologies, such as Ethernet, eCPRI, CPRI and OBSAI. Assessing fronthaul transport equipment reliability, ensuring selected equipment meets 5G latency requirements and confirming equipment and transceiver compatibility against multiple protocols within a lab environment will make sure networks are robust enough to deal with the complexity of 5G networks.
To reap the benefits of 5G, mobile networks will need to become denser. More antennae and massive small cell deployments will be required to support reduced latency, higher speeds, more capacity and better coverage in highly populated areas where there will be a huge increase in connected devices. Ultimately, the quality and reliability of these mobile networks will depend on a robust fiber backbone—from metro to core—carrying traffic to and from 5G small cells. More fiber deeper into the network means the potential for more problems, causing 5G service degradation and disruption, and SLA disputes. The 5G ecosystem goals of dramatically increased throughput and dramatically reduced end-to-end latency will mean an increase in OPEX to test, turn up and maintain all that new fiber—while continuing to improve what is already in place.
Mobile network operators need to support and maintain new 5G deployments as well as existing 4G/LTE installations. At the same time, cell densification and emerging 5G innovations, including beamforming and massive MIMO together with new mmWave spectrum and CBRS/C-bands, are making the RF environment complex to navigate for operators and field technicians. All this results in significant new operational challenges and the need for different, innovative test processes. In addition, as standards evolve to higher frequencies and wider bandwidths, operators will require test solutions that are able to scale and adapt as their networks change.
Whatever the level of speed, latency or throughput demanded, the transport network is the bedrock upon which 5G is being built as it powers the movement of all that data across fiber optic connections. All the new 5G requirements coming into play will have a direct impact on the transport network. From the core to the radio unit, a 5G network demands a tight link between all transport network resources—even more than in previous generations of network technology. Expectations are high that this unprecedented transformation of the transport network be done right and implementing comprehensive 5G transport testing practices will be paramount to achieving overall 5G deployment success.
Operational efficiency relies on ensuring the job is done right the first time. This becomes even more critical in 5G networks that support massive small cell deployments and fiber deployed more densely and deeper into the network. This 5G-fueled evolution will bring unprecedented network complexity with 20x the number of cell sites deployed and require increased deployment speeds. An efficient and automated test workflow process will give operations teams a competitive advantage by driving team efficiency, ensuring compliance for first-time right results and accelerating time-to-revenue.
EXFO’s FTB 5GPro test solution drives operational excellence through testing best practices—from installation and activation to maintenance and troubleshooting of 5G networks.
The automation of easy-to-use, field-optimized test solutions coupled with instantly interpreted results delivers accelerated outcomes by making scarce expertise available to everyone—at any skill level. Using EXFO’s intelligent handheld test equipment takes the guesswork out of setup, execution and analysis, leading to high-quality networks, delivered on time and able to address any foreseeable service requirements.
When critical measurements are needed to validate the fiber and transport network buildouts, service providers rely on EXFO’s test solutions to characterize, detect and locate otherwise invisible impairments that impact stringent 5G network performance standards. Unexpected delays due to network quality issues create a ripple effect that can ultimately delay a service launch and have significant impact on the bottom line.
Service providers are faced with supporting existing network requirements while transitioning to evolving technologies that enable faster rates and demanding 5G services. EXFO’s test solutions offer mix-and-match modules backed by the industry’s first Open Transceiver System (OTS) that adapts to existing and future optical interfaces from 1G to 400G and beyond. Major savings are achieved by using the evolutionary OTS designed to extend the life of test equipment without having to do forklift upgrades.
EXFO offers a unified test portfolio that enables seamless transition from lab-to-live applications to support 5G installation. Service providers benefit from technology flow-through, so the same GUI and test methodologies are applicable and transferable from the lab to the field. This eliminates the need for technician training and ensures smooth first office applications (FOAs) and widespread 5G network deployments.
With over 30 years of experience collaborating with service providers across the globe and as the world's #1 provider of fiber optic test solutions, EXFO understands the challenges facing operators today. Our unique blend of intelligent hardware, software and fit-for-purpose solutions enable our customers’ network transformations related to fiber, 5G, virtualization and big data analytics.