In our, we discussed how 5G Standalone’s promise of new differentiated services in a range of markets and environments required a dramatic increase in complexity where a new testing model is needed to keep pace with the rapid pace of technology evolution. Our looked at a high-level overview of the next-gen model for 5G Core (5GC) testing. The topics of both these blogs were also explored in greater detail in the webinar . In this blog, we examine the 5G SA testing strategy itself.
5G SA testing objectives
In both the pre-production and the production lifecycle, operators need to know if the cloud will deliver against the 5G performance expectations. Is it ready for prime time? This is a highly complex, multilayered environment of virtualized and containerized functions with many interdependencies. The objective is to identify cloud-native network functions (CNF) resiliency faults and isolate them. This entails stressing and amplifying the cloud Infrastructure degradations in both normal and rainy-day scenarios.
Because it's multi-vendor, however, it's even more complicated as it relates to the change management function in the live network element where software releases are coming out more rapidly than ever. Because of this complexity, and frequency of constant and rapid releases, change management must be managed with next-gen automation. It can no longer be performed by human beings.
From the earliest development phases possible, a proven testing framework and strategy must be in place. With technology moving at breakneck speed, they can’t be developed in hindsight. The testing framework consists of having the right experts with seasoned 5G domain and testing knowledge to engage with the challenges, with no ramp-up time required, along with having the right mature technology capabilities for this scope of testing. Then it’s how they’re implemented in the testing strategy. Having been in this space for years, at the advent of 5G and well before, Spirent has developed a proven and comprehensive testing strategy that has evolved in pace with 5G technology.
From the earliest development phases possible, a proven testing framework and strategy must be in place.
The 5G Core SA testing strategy
In Spirent’s work with a range of over 2,600 5G engagements, we've built a logical approach which is presented in a linear fashion at the top of the graphic below. Those seasoned in testing know this process isn’t actually fully linear – with many of the phases happening in parallel – yet it provides a simple logic for discussion purposes.
Below the linear representation in the graphic above, the testing stages in this strategy are placed within their context in the 5G environment. The first three steps (Steps 1-3) are focused on ensuring that the cloud and CNFs are working properly. This requires a great deal of stress testing in ways that are new in the mobile industry.
5GC Security testing (Step 4) in this context is also new and has never been a requirement before. Yes, our 5G Cores had to be secure. But the old way of doing it, where the physical network function (PNF) is assigned to the security group for penetration testing, etc., is no longer the case. The latest 5G 3GPP specification now has security built into it which must be a fundamental step of the actual 5GC performance alongside performance testing, not an afterthought, and not a standalone testing component. This element of testing is covered in greater detail in the webinar mentioned above – but one critical note: through our engagements, we found 75 security gaps – threats – in 5G solutions that were supposedly ready for prime time. Readon this topic.
As we move into the Open RAN (Step 5), we recognize it has also become disaggregated, decentralized, and virtualized, where the same sort of approaches above also need to be applied to the O-RAN. If you are deploying an O-RAN or moving to an O-RAN type of architecture, an automated testing strategy must be applied. Learn more in our eBook.
Wireless & RF Validation and XHaul Transport (Steps 6 and 7) are traditional validation of how the RF and the wireless portion of the network are operating, although this now includes different spectrums. The backhaul, fronthaul, and midhaul all need to be tested. The big difference is the volumes. And as we move into network slicing, that must also be taken into account.
MEC Latency (Step 8) is also new for those carriers implementing or planning to adopt MEC and edge deployments. We've been engaged with this testing for a few years, both with carriers and the hyperscalers, and see a specific kind of testing is required. This is particularly around latency and one-way latency, as it affects specific applications like gaming and high-frequency needs. This is unique to the industry as a comprehensive testing approach to this must be employed if the use cases described above are part of an operator’s offerings. Read Learn more in our report.
Regarding Service & Device Launch (Step 9), new devices in the industry must be tested both in pre-production, but, more importantly, out in the field. We've supported many customers in this space. Whether it's IoT or traditional 5G handsets out in the world, in the devices using these spectrums and whether they're spectrum sharing or not – mmWave, Wi-Fi convergence – all the different elements must be tested before they go live out in the field and finally into the live network. Read our eBook.
The good news: You don’t stand alone facing the challenges of next-gen 5G SA testing
Our discussions with operators and network vendors reveal a persistent struggle to find people with skill sets in multiple domains (e.g., 5G, networking, cloud, AI/ML, security, and CI/CD automation). Even when the right expertise is available, time pressures typically won’t allow for months or years to develop best practice next-gen test methodologies and workflows for cutting-edge technologies. As a result, many are reaching out to trusted partners like Spirent for.
Learn more about this approach and other pressing topics in 5GC SA. 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 to reinvent testing for the 5G cloud.
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