5G Monitoring: What are new Challenges and Opportunities?

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Significance of 5G monitoring in modern world

Mobile operators are focusing on 5G deployment on a rapid scale and are expected to spread 5G services to a wider geographical area by 2025. With a variety of use cases to support different industries and consumers, 5G will usher into a new era of applications and will come along with lots of 5G challenges and opportunities. Such applications and use cases range from connected cars to smart cities/homes, remote drones to robots, fixed wireless access to enhanced fiber capacity in mobile broadband to deliver uninterrupted network. Thus, planning to expedite 5G rollout and give users better lives with the use of new-age 5G applications is on full force.

Chances are, the 5G Market will reach at $5.53 billion in 2020, and is forecasted $667.90 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 122.3% during 2021 to 2026. With this, demand for 5G monitoring is becoming critical to measure Quality of Experience (QoE) provided to users, and the global 5G monitoring equipment and solutions market is anticipated to reach $2 billion by 2024, registering CAGR of 11.5%.

The potential of 5G can be extracted with continuous 5G monitoring. New-age test solutions are developed to accommodate complex use cases and overall advancements in architecture that encompass RAN, core, transport, and fiber network elements simultaneously. This has evolved the need for advanced emulation and verification technology in the 5G monitoring lab and is easily scalable as per 5G deployment requirements in the field.

Complexities attached with 5G monitoring

1. 5G monitoring is expensive

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  • Mobile network operators are accelerating 5G deployment to expand its network coverage area to a huge population on a global scale. As they move forward with planning for 5G rollout, they face severe obstructions in their path where network cost plays a critical component in the development of next-gen wireless technology.

  • Operators are striving to meet demand for upgraded capacity and deploy 5G with high-tech infrastructure required for various use cases depending on the verticals that can lead to multiplication of network cost by two-folds. The overall spending on 5G infrastructure globally is expected to double in 2020 with 8.1 billion USD, according to estimates done by Gartner, Inc.

  • Deployment of 5G involves huge cost investment, comprising skilled RF engineers capable of handling 5G workloads, high-end 5G monitoring equipments to perform 5G trials before deployment, continuous evolving 5G infrastructure demands and last but not the least transportation costs including visits to cell tower site, performing 5G drive tests.

  • As per the research conducted by Juniper Research, 5G operator billed revenues is estimated to reach 269 billion USD by 2025 growing at a compound annual rate of 161% in the initial seven years of 5G service. Though there is a lot of expenses in 5G monitoring with test equipment, manpower, transportation and infrastructure costs, market penetration of 5G technology in industries such as automotive, construction, medical, entertainment, is increasingly surging demand for 5G applications and will lead to new achievements in every sector.

2. 5G lab tests

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  • Monitoring 5G wireless in a lab environment is critical to validate the impact of real-life scenarios across the entire network and assess user Quality of Experience (QoE). Such lab solutions are developed to test cellular, wireless and IP technologies attached with network devices and analyse them to make improvements and deliver enhanced network services to users.

  • Constantly changing 3GPP specifications makes it difficult for operators to monitor 5G. Having a 5G lab with emulators and testers enables operators an end-to-end validation on Radio Access and Core networks with high performing simulation on UE. Though 5G lab tracking solution is not so widely available, operators integrating such monitoring solutions in their 5G development process can depict test cases on physical world conditions and accelerate 5G monitoring before deployment takes over. In this regard, the LAB RAN network setup is done with several 5G cell devices under 5G lab to perform tests and can be automated as per needs.

  • Our RantCell automation cloud solution can be deployed on operator or vendor 5G labs and is compatible with most of the 5G Android smartphones available in the market. Data is uploaded to cloud in real-time thus saving time in post-processing and reducing time taken to analyse results. Test engineers can perform analysis on web-based dashboard and generate PDF reports to share it among colleagues to analyse test QoE/QoS data and make decision on live 5G deployments. The solution can also serve the purpose of automation of 5G monitoring to test repetitive tasks such as regression test suite including Non-standalone 5G RAN/Core software verification, speed tests based on 5G NR KPIs and send notifications via alarms and reports, thus significantly reducing time test cycles.


    5G speed test performed via RantCell app

  • RantCell solution can monitor 5G based on user KPIs such as speed test for upload and download throughput, call test, and give values that could be assessed to optimize network performance. This ultimately will help in curbing labor efforts and save time by 30% thus saving overall costs that is required to conduct such extensive monitoring.

  • Here is an example of RantCell application deployed on Android smartphone installed on a car to conduct drive test. Click on the link to get a sneak peak of 5G drive test.

    Dashboard view of 5G monitoring performed via RantCell app

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3. mmWave band

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  • MmWave will be a critical component in 5G deployment due to its throughput advantages. MmWave bands are expected to deliver aggregated channel bandwidth of more than 1GHz. This comes along with some difficulties in transmitting more data as high frequency leads to shorter wavelengths like in case of mmWave. Further, 5G uses a multi-element phased array Multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) access method which leads to signal propagation issues like excessive path loss, delay spread, multi-path fading impacting overall system performance. Consequently, mmWave have the ability to only transmit within short distances and beam tracking and smart beam forming will be aggregated into 5G cell towers for better transmissions. Test solutions for mmWave should be built with channels having wide bandwidths that could accommodate higher frequencies. Locking a specific cell, you can perform drive test. For instance, test location is having a 4G LTE cell, select the desired bandwidth namely LTE 40, LTE 25 etc. Click on 'Download' to check the method to unlock cell lock / band lock feature on your Android smartphone and test with RantCell solution.

    Procedure for cell lock/band lock

  • Engineers need to take these issues into account to overcome significant propagation losses and requires to implement beamforming subsystems and antenna arrays. They have to characterize signals i.e. receiving and transmitting signals from 5G beamforming devices which is another challenge in order to ensure efficient performance of 5G under real-world interference channel conditions.

4. 5G monitoring with ENDC

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  • ENDC (E-UTRAN New Radio – Dual Connectivity) will be a key technology implemented in first phase of 5G deployment enabling networks with support for multi-standard and multi-band in radio access and devices simultaneously. Scheduling and handovers I.e. the core mobile device actions will be performed with the utilization of LTE channels to enhance its broader coverage. MmWave will be used as a data pipe to provide high-bandwidth services with faster throughput.

  • The second mode for 5G is Standalone (SA) mode. This version is not dependent on current LTE elements and can be deployed in greenfield situations. Since the pilot version of 3GPP specification is not expected to direct SA mode, engineers are left behind with assumptions for the conditions related to this mode. In addition to this complexity is the revisions that will be made to the specification of Non-Standalone (NSA) in the years to come that would create new challenges for 5G monitoring.

5G monitoring brings a lot more opportunities for service providers and vendors

Ever since the commence of commercialization of 5G technology started, it opened several opportunity areas for 5G monitoring equipment and will continue to grow in the upcoming years. Service providers can look into these few recommendations as given below to strengthen their sales enablement capabilities and pitch their sales offerings accordingly:

  • Cloud native network is apt for creating 5G tracking environment that can be scaled according to 5G business case. 5G monitoring solutions developed on cloud is a big opportunity area for service providers and will definitely pave the way to satisfy critical needs. One such solution is RantCell solution, built on AWS cloud-based server and enabled with dashboard feature to analyse perform data and generate report automatically which can be easily automated as per requirements.

  • Service providers can capitalize on improving legacy framework to meet present day demands of 5G monitoring.

  • Developing tracking solutions to cover wider range of frequency and bandwidth requirements to assess RF performance of 3D antenna beam patterns over-the-air (OTA).

  • Due to the amount of monitoring required for 5G and the amount of data to be analysed, it is very tough for network operators to assess data manually. Service providers can leverage new-age technologies like data analytics to craft tracking solutions. It will assist in performance data assessment in different phases of monitoring and ease their assessment process in less time with reduced manual efforts.

  • Development of remote monitoring solutions to help operators save their man hours from visiting network site and perform tracking from remote locations.

  • Several assessment tasks are repetitive and need to be done on frequent intervals which require automated monitoring. This gives another favorable situation for vendors to work on automation-based 5G monitoring solution to serve their regular high demanding activities like performing network tests recurrently to assess user QoE.

  • Service providers need to work on other tracking and monitoring tools that are constantly evolving and can be developed to satiate changing 5G monitoring demands including model-based monitoring tool - simulation on test device with realistic users, Virtualized (NFV) monitoring tool, IP traffic monitors, Call generators, load generators.

Conclusion

Expansion of 5G applications to support various use cases applied in the different industry verticals has created a never-ending demand for 5G monitoring. The revolutionary path towards 5G requires operators identify new architectures with a significant data plan to be tested focusing on latency, bandwidth and throughput efficiency. Test solution service providers need to build flexible and scalable platforms that can work as 5G monitoring equipment integrated with expanded capabilities and ensure new-age wireless networks perform according to specific requirements.

The new developments streamlined with 5G technology promises to build a strong competitive business surroundings across various industries and transform the way of connecting with people or doing business in the near future. Having a roadmap for the structured deployment of 5G, operators will find new 5G opportunities as they continue to perform 5G monitoring for commercializing it to a wider group of customers.