Enterprises are increasingly looking to deploy private 5G networks to support the growing use of connected (IoT) technologies, improve safety and automate processes. To support them on this journey, many are choosing to partner with Mobile Network Operators, that offer huge amounts of experience building 5G networks.
Applications that rely on these networks are becoming more and more varied, creating a diverse range of requirements for private networks. These different quality of service (QoS) demands include mobility, reliability, coverage and latency.
If the network doesn’t meet these connectivity needs, the implications can be costly and dangerous. So, how can MNOs, vendors or integrators help ensure that private 5G networks consistently deliver for the business-critical applications that rely on them?
Lab testing has the potential to reduce cost in the deployment cycle
With strict QoS requirements, it makes sense to first test private networks in a lab environment where reliable and repeatable conditions are easy to achieve.
As a live deployment involves far more variables, it can be more difficult to troubleshoot during a field test, as well as reproduce results to get a reliable indication of QoS.
Lab tests also allow you to be more specific in testing and more thorough in testing the network’s reliability. In a lab environment, it is possible to run long-duration tests emulating variables such as mixed traffic, fading and mobility conditions reflecting a real environment. Lab testing also has the potential to reduce costs in the deployment cycle, as sending engineers on-site is not only costly, but the variables at play mean debugging issues are more complicated and time-consuming.
Let’s look at three different examples where lab testing can streamline private 5G network deployments:
1. Standalone 5G Private Network
As 5G standalone (5G SA) begins to enter the market, the ultra-low latency it offers will make it an enticing prospect for private networks. This type of deployment option has a self-contained core network and RAN, and is independent of the Mobile Network Operators (MNO). Alongside low latency, key benefits include a controlled quality of service and less variable loading, due to independence from a public network.
But since the applications these networks will support will heavily rely on this controlled quality of service, they need to be tested to ensure the network can work reliably. A lab environment can perform an end-to-end (E2E) network test before deployment. Each piece of user equipment (UE) that will be connected to the network, needs to be evaluated for throughput via emulation equipment such as the VIAVI TM500. To test and measure the latency of the network, a data application such as TWAMP can be used, which tests the network through customised data packets.
By testing in the lab, both the performance of the radios and the core network can be analyzed at the same time. This reduces the number of unknowns that can occur
with the deployment of a 5G SA network and gives the test finer detail on the latency and throughput capabilities of the small cell.
2. Shared RAN
Alternatively, a private network might opt for a hybrid model, where independent network services sit within the enterprise while leveraging the radio access network (RAN) of the public network. The advantage of this model is lower CAPEX spending, and since applications can connect to either the local network or the public network of the MNO, it is ideal for environments that have mixed requirements (i.e. where not all applications require low latency).
Despite the RAN being shared with the public network, it is still possible to test this deployment type in a lab. In this case, a core network emulator is used for E2E tests with real data applications. This is done via a ‘wrap around’ test using an application emulation tool, such as the TeraVM Core Test product. This enables both low-latency applications (such as IoT safety equipment) and non-low-latency-sensitive applications (such as the internet) to be tested.
3. Network Slicing
A new option for 5G private networks is to introduce network slicing, as defined by 3GPP. In this setup, the MNO maintains the network and reserves virtual portions of the network for private use for the enterprise. Naturally, the main attraction of this method for enterprises is the lower setup costs. Since the core network is located in the MNOs domain, and therefore further away from the enterprise’s location, the latency can be higher than other setups, however edge deployments can be used to mitigate this.
To test the network slice’s latency and throughput, applications such as TWAMP can be used for E2E testing alongside a core network emulator. The benefit of this approach is that it allows repeated tests with different types of slices and allows multiple slices to be tested simultaneously. Since a slice is separated to ensure a certain QoS, it is also important to test what happens when the MNO network reaches capacity, with the loading of the UPF as an example. Again, this can be done via a core network emulator.
Test for Reliability and Consistency
VIAVI is the leading network test and measurement partner for 5G technology. VIAVI test equipment such as the TM500 and TeraVM Core Emulator can be used to thoroughly test 5G networks, including private mobile networks in a lab environment – ensuring requirements such as mobility, reliability, coverage and latency are being met.