Industry Insights

Network Emulation Fuels 5G Device Availability

2020-02-10  |  6 min read 

If you live in the U.S., you have most likely heard T-Mobile's touting the first nationwide 5G network in America - unless you have been living under a rock these past few weeks. This network covers 200 million people in more than 5,000 cities over 1 million square miles. You have also most likely watched Verizon’s 5G Built Right TV commercials talking about how ultra-wideband 5G technology enables ultra-fast speeds, ultra-low latency, and massive capacity for sports entertainment and more noble purposes like search and rescue efforts. Exciting times ahead.

The availability of 5G services will grow rapidly around the world in 2020. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSMA) reports that close to 350 mobile network operators (MNOs) are in the midst of deploying 5G networks. The number of 5G products will also increase exponentially. More than 75 vendors have announced available or future 5G devices, and commercial devices have more than doubled in the past six months.[1]

Keysight is a key enabler of this 5G device uptake. In the Qualcomm ecosystem alone, we have helped device makers bring to market more than 100 5G devices for various applications including fixed wireless access (FWA), mobile connectivity, automotive, and manufacturing.

Carrier acceptance testing is the next step on the road to 5G. Network operators require these supplemental tests to ensure that the devices allowed on their networks operate to specific needs. Such tests are essential to prevent network disruptions and provide a high user experience to consumers.

Building on its efforts to make 5G a reality for all, Keysight is helping MNOs accelerate the process by providing early access to the most validated test cases – 600, to be exact. Leading U.S. network operator Sprint, for instance, uses Keysight’s network emulation solutions to validate the performance of 5G New Radio (NR) devices for FWA and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) applications. The operator leverages the 5G Protocol and RF Carrier Acceptance Toolsets to optimize end-user experience while accessing 5G services on its network.

Sprint’s collaboration with Keysight has led to the development of a carrier-specific test plan that covers both protocol and RF parameters at frequency range 1 (FR1) and spans a wide range of use cases and mobility scenarios. The goal is to ensure that 5G devices on its network deliver a superior experience to subscribers.

The first device acceptance plans, including those from AT&T and NTT DoCoMo, emerged in 2019. More operators have issued their plans since, and the trend will continue. All U.S. MNOs and major operators around the world use Keysight’s network emulation solutions to accelerate the 5G device acceptance process. The high number of validated test cases, Keysight’s active role in standards and certification bodies, and the many milestones achieved with renowned chipset and device makers are among the key factors leading operators to select Keysight’s network emulation solutions.

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) sets the standards for mobile cellular communications. The Global Certification Forum (GCF) and the PCS Type Certification Review Board (PTCRB) refine the specifications, validate the test cases, and manage the certification of test labs – PTCRB for North America and GCF for all other regions. MNOs receive added assurance from Keysight’s deep involvement in these organizations.

Accelerating device acceptance testing is a top priority for MNOs. It is equally important to device makers to hit the market window. Performing acceptance tests ahead of time helps to ensure that a device will pass. However, operators’ acceptance tests are extensive and complex - and possibly confidential. How can device makers influence the device acceptance process to their advantage? The strategies at their disposal include leveraging conformance toolsets, stress testing a device’s battery consumption under different use case scenarios, and performing virtual drive testing to find issues before field drive test. You can find more information about these strategies in a recently published white paper titled Three Strategies to Ensure Successful 5G NR Device Acceptance Test.

You can also find more information about 5G challenges and solutions on the following webpages:

  • For general information on 5G, click here
  • For 5G topics important to MNOs, click here
  • For 5G information that relates to device design and test, click here

[1] GSA Report, 5G Device Ecosystem, December 2019