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Test and Measurement in the 5G World

Carl Weinschenk

The nascent world of 5G is filled with cutting edge concepts and new technology. Much has been said about what the industry is trying to create and its promise. Comparatively little has been said, however, about how they plan to use test and measurement (T&M) to develop equipment and keep it all up and running once it is deployed.

It is a vital topic, however. WirelessWeek suggests just how extreme the changes in 5G are. A major change, according to Saul Einbinder, the vice president of Venture Development for T&M company Spirent, is the use of mmWave, which means that dozens or even hundreds of radio channels will be transmitting simultaneously. These all must be monitored.

The extent of the changes to T&M is not only being felt in the lab. RCR Wireless offers a story and an accompanying video describing 5G field testing equipment by T&M firm Rohde & Schwarz. The piece discusses the need to create gear enabling field personnel to quickly enter a home or business and create a "heat map" that tells there where the signals are absent, weak or strong. This will dictate where customer premise equipment (CPE) is located.

This type of task is on one level mundane and on the other critically important. There is nothing new about field equipment that assesses signal strength in a premise. It is critically important in this context, because multi-millimeter (mmWave) signals have a very different and more fragile profile than what is in use today. The task remains vital and a whole new generation of equipment is needed to carry it out.


Equipment is being introduced. Last week, Viavi Solutions introduced Nitro. The platform, according to the press release, automatically feeds real-time T&M data from the network into Viavi planning, provisioning, assurance and optimization applications. The first member of the family is Nitro yNet Fusion, which provides virtual test, service activation and performance monitoring. The platform works across network types and will accommodate 5G when it is deployed.

Separately, Viavi Solutions and ThinkRF announced a collaboration last month. The two companies are working together on a down-converter that will extend Viavi Solution's CellAdvisor from its existing operational range in the 2G, 3G and 4G realm to the 27 GHz to 30 GHz spectrum that will be used by 5G.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on what is happening in 5G T&M. There is a tremendous amount riding on the success of 5G. In many ways, it is even more important than the standards that came before. It is not just more speed. The approach being used will open new opportunities to businesses, powerful new use cases, and the equalization of wired and wireless platforms. This puts a lot of pressure on manufacturers of T&M equipment both for labs and once the equipment reaches the field.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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