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The New Way to Test Wi-Fi Network Performance


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As the world grows increasingly dependent on Wi-Fi connectivity, it needs a better way to test the performance of new network infrastructure. Here’s why emulation is the answer.

Whether it’s in an office or an airport, a shopping centre or a stadium, Wi-Fi network infrastructure is playing an ever greater role in our lives.

But as our dependency on Wi-Fi grows, validating the performance of network infrastructure in the lab – before it’s deployed – is no longer enough.

Whether you’re moving a business to new premises, or preparing to wow sports fans with state-of-the-art, in-stadium services, you need to know your production infrastructure is going to deliver from the word ‘go’.

If it doesn’t, you risk losing money as your employees struggle to connect to customers – or losing face, as fans find there’s insufficient bandwidth to go around, and your new services fall at the first hurdle.

The problem is, until now, load testing live networks to their limits has been slow, expensive and incredibly hard to do well.

To explain why, let’s look at a real-life example – a project I was involved with for a leading European service provider.

Busy office lobby

Case in point

The service provider contacted Spirent Professional Services for help solving exactly this challenge – validating the performance of a new Wi-Fi network infrastructure.

The telco had been engaged by one of the world’s largest professional services companies to provide Wi-Fi connectivity for its new office space. With the move in date approaching, the company wanted to stress test the finished infrastructure, and make sure it would support the high volume of connections they were about to bring, without overly compromising performance.

Validating performance for just one of the many floors of this multi-storey building would have traditionally required…

Hundreds of Wi-Fi clients

To recreate the conditions of a busy office environment, hundreds of Wi-Fi clients – be they laptops, smartphones, smart TVs – would have had to be connected to the Wi-Fi network at once.

Hundreds of test assistants

Each one of these Wi-Fi clients would have needed to be operated manually, and moved between access points to test mobility performance.

Weeks of testing time

Testing in this way would have been incredibly slow work, only lengthened by the need to test with both UDP and SIP types of traffic.

Limited test integrity

With a huge team of human beings operating and moving the Wi-Fi clients, the tests would also have had limited repeatability, compromising the integrity of the results.

The solution

It was clear to us that the service provider needed a better way to validate Wi-Fi network performance.

We proposed a solution based on Wi-Fi client emulation. In these circumstances, each emulator – the Spirent Landslide E10 – would be able to emulate up to 64 Wi-Fi clients, generate a range of traffic types, and even recreate the motion of a client between different access points.

With two test servers and just ten emulators placed around the floor, we would be able to emulate the hundreds of Wi-Fi clients needed to push the network infrastructure to its limits.

The tests would be controlled and repeatable, and could be performed by a small team of test engineers from a single location – dramatically cutting testing times and costs.

Though our emulation-based approach, the service provider was able to validate Wi-Fi network performance quickly, and give its customer the peace of mind it needed.

A solution for everyone

As carrier grade Wi-Fi rapidly becomes the backbone of modern business, load testing network infrastructure with Wi-Fi client emulation isn’t just for telcos.

It can help organizations of all kinds ensure their Wi-Fi performs as expected, when the demand – and stakes – are highest.

Validating Wi-Fi Network Performance for a leading European service provider

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Martin Blades
Martin Blades

Martin works for Spirent’s Lifecycle Service Assurance Business Development organization to build proactive solutions for EMEA in Mobility Solutions and WiFi. With over 30 years' experience in telecommunications, Martin has played a key role in the industry - from the early GSM days through to the latest 4G and 5G networks. He has managed R&D, Business Development, Marketing and Manufacturing in a number of locations around the world with a focus on Customer Quality of Experience. Martin continues to drive solutions to real life problems for Network Equipment Manufacturers and Telecoms Service Providers in the lab and in Live Production Networks to give end-to-end Lifecycle Service Assurance.