Assuring massive network transformation

How to assure the virtual network, the Cloud RAN and the stringent network requirements of 5G and the IoT.

The transformation of the network and service environment is already bringing with it associated challenges, and of course opportunities, for those throughout the network value chain.

Right now those tasked with monitoring, testing and assuring those networks during and after transformation are asking themselves – how do we support operators by accessing and presenting them with the data they need to assure customer experiences?

Look at the massive increase in number of subscribers and in diversity of applications and at what is required to support that – SDN, NFV, the Cloud RAN…  “It’s an amazing time,” says Germain Lamonde, CEO and founder of EXFO, as he outlines these changes and the key trends EXFO is seeing in network transformation.

Lamonde says that one way through this transformation is to combine multiple sources of data to shine a much brighter light on service quality. As a good example EXFO’s active test capabilities can generate traffic to test every network element, antenna, PoP, to ensure latency parameters, packet loss, are delivered as they should be.

“If you don’t have the right infrastructure there’s no way you can deliver the right quality of experience.”

And then there is the IoT and 5G. It is here that the most profound impact will be seen in the network, with very stringent requirements for latency and throughput. This demands both a real time view of the nature of the network fabric, but also the ability to analyse the longer term trends in the network.

“This unique combination that we bring of multiple data sources into a single analytics tool provides an insight that no-one else can  really provide.”

One part of the network transformation is the shift in radio network architecture, driven by virtualisation of the BaseBand Units, to support lower latencies and to make more efficient use of radio resources. This is the Cloud RAN.

“The importance of Cloud RAN is to support the demands of 5G – so it really needs to be deployed the right way,” says Sophie Legault, Director, T&D Business Unit, EXFO. “There are mutliple technology choices right now, but we will have to move away from CPRI as it does not scale well in terms of bandwidth or capacity that is required,” Legault adds. Here are the requirements 5G makes of the Cloud RAN.

Testing the 5G CloudRAN fronthaul.

EXFO has experience in the optical technologies that will support Cloud RAN fronthaul – either over CPRI or packet data fronthaul that will be enabled by different virtualisation splits in the radio technology stack.

But with operator RAN teams often lacking in optical networks experience, it is important they have solutions that help them characterise both Remote Radio Head and vBBU performance across these optical links, and that aid them in rolling out and operating new radio networks more efficiently.

More from EXFO at MWC: the acquisition of Ontology Systems that will combine EXFO’s live network analytics with Ontology’s visual representations of network topologies, creating a critical capability to track and verify automated network changes as orchestrators and controllers push changes into the network.

  This article was produced in association with TMN sponsor EXFO.
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