End-to-end Network Testing: Three questions, one solution

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End-to-end (E2E) network testing is critical for service providers. Here, we look at why E2E network testing is important, as telcos look to introduce Open RAN architectures into their networks. We’ll examine what some of the common problems are and offer a solution to service providers’ testing times.

E2E testing means services providers can replicate real end-user scenarios to ensure that their network is able to withstand high demand. With 5G deployment gathering momentum, they must ensure that networks can concurrently support the number and variety of use cases technology will enable. They’re not just testing to deliver superior services for subscribers – they’re bound by service level agreements and KPIs which must be met in order to realise ROI on network.

What does E2E network testing involve? It requires service providers to check hardware and software components and how they work within the wider network infrastructure. It involves validating network performance as experienced by end users, across multiple cells and different radio access technologies, from RAN to core, including emerging cloud-based architectures. The diversity of E2E testing can reduce costs in finding and troubleshooting issues and helps operators deploy – and monetise – new products and services.

Testing new software-centric networks

Open RAN architectures including O-RAN is attracting interest from telcos as they look to introduce more software into their networks, reduce costs and diversify their supply chains.

It takes time to integrate O-RAN components from different vendors and make sure they work properly together. E2E testing also requires advanced automation that is agnostic to the vendor, facilitates software maintenance & upgrades and ensures that service level KPIs remain unchanged. The maturity of O-RAN and the speed of deployment will depend on plug-and-play capability of both hardware and software.

How can service providers conduct reliable, advanced E2E network testing, meet service level agreements and deliver a superior quality of service? By picking the most robust, reliable and advanced suite of test solutions.

What should they look out for? First, breadth of test features. Second, evidence that a solution works for a wide variety of users – including NEMs. Finally, a history of testing at capacity in realistic scenarios and solving real-world issues.

O-RAN benchmarking and testing will future-proof networks

O-RAN is introducing standardised open interfaces, enabling disaggregated network elements and the use of standardised server hardware. Operators must benchmark and test each individual component independently. Our test portfolio offers emulation of many components including UE, RAN and core, and wrap-around of major functions over multiple interfaces ensuring interoperability, performance, robustness of the fronthaul O-RU to O-DU interface, for example ensuring maximum and stable throughput while eliminating any scope for synchronisation errors.

VIAVI is a key contributor to the O-RAN ALLIANCE. We collaborate on multi-vendor interoperability testing to ensure that disparate Open RAN fronthaul components and disaggregated software and hardware elements can interoperate and function.

Solutions must offer complete RAN-to-Core testing

RAN and core are converging, bringing functions and resources closer to the end user. This is great news for users but a challenge for operators. VIAVI’s TM500 and TeraVM are designed to solve this challenge. The solutions offer complete E2E test solution from RAN to core, simulating real-world traffic and ensuring networks are robust to cope with complexity and demands of devices and traffic.

In the lab, TM500 and TeraVM families deliver UE, O-RAN subsystem and core network simulation to enable conformance, interoperability and performance testing of both complete base station and core network testing as well as testing of individual O-RAN subsystems and core network elements.

Results are proven at Plugfests

Demonstrating solutions is a key part of instilling confidence among telco community. In September and October last year, VIAVI participated in O-RAN plugfest hosted by tier-1 CSPs and the O-RAN ALLIANCE.

The plugfest involved a series of on-site demonstrations in Berlin, Torino, Madrid, Bengaluru and Tokyo. This included a joint demonstration with EANTC, showing how we’d automated E2E O-RAN tests. We verified 12 multi-vendor pairings of O-RU and O-DU/O-CU solutions at OTIC labs, using the TM500 E500, demonstrating how end-to-end testing can incorporate a truly multi-vendor O-RAN architecture.

Lab testing and emulation for robustness and reliability

Emulating traffic in lab enables operators to test and ready a cloud network, or test the infrastructure in development, prior to deployment. TeraVM is a virtualised solution that’s flexible to run in lab, data centre and cloud. It helps operators to ensure that networks are highly optimised, by minimising risk and potential loss. This is important for operators who are in the early stages of network deployment.

Used for automation and orchestration, cybersecurity threat and malware penetration, secure access firewall/VPN testing, wireless core interface testing and wireless RAN and core emulation, TeraVM can also be used in conjunction with TM500 for stability testing.

VIAVI solutions are in every NEM lab ensuring customer requirements and KPIs are met. We help reduce the burden customers experience with integration, achieving/optimising performance, meeting interoperability objectives E2E in realistic traffic and mobility scenarios. E2E network testing has its challenges, but there is a solution in our comprehensive test suite that is backed by a long history of industry experience.