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Don’t Stand Alone: Overcome the Challenges of 5G Standalone (Part One)


Services like network slices, private networks, edge services, Voice over New Radio (VoNR), autonomous networks require a quantum leap of vendors to make them all possible. This means faster and frequent multi-vendor releases. New testing models are required to keep pace with the accelerating pace of technology evolution.

It’s on everyone’s mind, whether they’ve adopted 5G yet or not. With over 1 billion global subscribers of 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) already, 24 full commercial operator launches of 5G Standalone (SA), and more than 1,200 announced 5G SA devices available globally, it’s the proverbial elephant in the room.

But where’s the promise of 5G revenue?

Mobile network operators (MNOs) are projecting a range of opportunities, including Cloud Gaming (~$12bn by 2026), Manufacturing (~$113bn by 2026) along with Energy and Utilities (~$86bn by 2030) to name a few. Spirent surveyed approximately 70 MNOs on what they saw the drivers for deploying 5G Core:

  • Realizing the prospect of offering new robust services to customers

  • Attainment of greater agility

  • Achieving lower costs

These services include network slices, private networks, edge services, Voice over New Radio (VoNR), autonomous networks, and more.

But how do we get there?

That’s where it gets complicated. As 5G fully embraces the cloud, complexity increases dramatically. This cloudification includes: Cloud applications like virtual network functions (VNFs) and cloud-native functions (CNFs); Private cloud platforms (supported by OpenStack and Kubernetes – including RedHat, DELL, IBM and Nokia – and Public cloud platforms like AWS, Google, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, and more); and the cloud infrastructure involving hardware and software supporting virtualization and containerization.

Contrasting the traditional core, a quantum leap of vendors is now involved to make all this possible. This means faster and frequent multi-vendor releases.

That means testing complexity increases between 10-50X. Then there are the complexities of moving from the lab to the live production network.

How can this be addressed in a comprehensive way, and keep pace with the accelerating pace of technology evolution?

New testing models required for success in 5G Core adoptions

Early movers have many lessons learned on the road to 5G SA. One critical takeaway is that the cloud breaks 5G testing as we know it. Validating the telecom cloud is a big change. Why? 5G CNFs failures are significantly different from physical network function (PNFs) or even VNFs. Traditional manual validation testing simply can't keep up with the constant stream of releases of cloud-native functions and compute and connectivity infrastructure across an expanded set of 5G vendors.


The cloud breaks 5G testing as we know it.

MNOs have a host of questions that need to be answered to have confidence their 5G Core is working as planned. A few include:

  • Will the cloud reliably deliver performant 5G services?

  • Is the mobile core ready for customers?

  • How do faults in cloud impact 5G services?

  • Does each CNF deliver to spec?

  • Does the cloud provide consistent performance to CNFs?

To answer these questions, and others, a new class of cloud tests is required that address CNF resilience, benchmarking and upgrade/change management.

To achieve this, ecosystem of collaboration requires a unified, automated platform that delivers a continuous testing framework. This should account for more vendors, more layers and more complex validation tests. We need an automated approach for all ecosystem players to use and requires an open framework of inter-connected functions forming an integrated continuous integration, deployment and test (CI/CD/CT) pipeline, with consistency across lab, staging, and production.

A team of experts convened in a webinar to discuss 5G SA challenges and opportunities: Heavy Reading Principal Analyst, Ruth Brown, Spirent Head of Strategy, Steve Douglas, and Spirent VP of Global Business Solutions, Chris O'Loughlin. They explain why 5G is disrupting traditional testing and share how 5G leaders are adopting automation and "as a service" models with trusted testing partners to reinvent testing for the 5G cloud. For a majority of organizations for whom testing is not a core competency, this approach represents a practical cost-effective strategy to achieve comprehensive testing efficiencies, powered by seasoned expertise in the continuously evolving 5G technology front.

The webinar covers the following topics:

  • Service providers' transformation to the cloud: status, challenges, and headwinds

  • What a cloud-native 5G Core release calendar looks like and the move to CI/CD

  • The need for automation across the lab-to-live lifecycle

  • The role of "as a service" models and case studies

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Bob Dietrich

Global Head, Services Solutions Architect

Bob Dietrich is an accomplished telecom and cloud solutions architect with 30 years of experience. Focusing on OSS and network management, he has supported a wide range of solutions throughout their lifecycle, from vision, business case justification, design, test, deployment, and customer acceptance and satisfaction.