5 Key Trends in Telecom Testing for 2020

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If you’re a telco test engineer, you know that the world of telecommunications is getting more complex by the day. Your service needs to integrate with more devices than ever, and you still have to maintain interworking with any number of legacy systems.

This is driving an increase in the number of test cases that require verification, and also a renewed push towards automation across the field.

Whether you’re selecting an automation solution or simply trying to keep your testing process as efficient as possible, it’s important to keep tabs on the new challenges and opportunities that are likely to be coming down the pike.To that end, here are a few trends that telco testers might want to keep their eyes on in the next year. We hope that these help you to say ahead of the curve as you verify service on your network.

1. Easier Test Case Scripting

Right now, one of challenges that test engineers across various fields cite most frequently is test case maintenance. Often, automated test flows will utilize test scripts that quickly become outdated following any sort of change to your network or your test environment—meaning that they have to be laboriously rewritten in order to perform new tests.

In the coming year, we expect more and more engineers to make a deliberate move towards more reusable test scripts. The logic here is simple: the more easily you can reuse code when, say, running regression tests on your VoLTE network, the more time you can save in the long run.

With things like Robot Framework powering more keyword-based tests, this kind of time-saving reusability is easier to achieve than ever, meaning that it will likely continue to grow in popularity.

This means that the typical telco testing flow in 2020 should be quicker and more efficient on average, and network operators that can’t adapt might find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

2. More Emphasis on Continuous Testing

We’ve been pretty vocal on this blog about the need for 24/7 regression testing. Small changes in your network can have unintended consequences for your service offerings, and if you aren’t vigilant those changes might cause a dip in quality of service (QoS), and thus customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately, doing anything 24/7 can get expensive and resource-intensive really quickly, which is why this has historically been a use case that has fallen by the wayside. As tests automation becomes easier and more widespread.

However, 24/7 test flows will become more attractive to telco operators. Why? Because rather than taking up valuable engineer-hours, they’ll be able to run in the background and send out automated alerts.

3. The Continued Rise of 5G

5G preparedness and deployment is going to be a long process, and 2020 will just barely scratch the surface. Still, testers are likely to see a host of new devices, new network elements, and new equipment—not to mention new protocols—arise in the coming year and beyond.

LTE EPC (which was never an amazing fit for LTE’s particular set of use cases) will likely be replaced, but whether it’s supplanted by content centric networking or something else entirely, the protocol stack is going to be both complex and somewhat in flux.

Even as the 3GPP sets preliminary guidelines for bandwidth allocation, interworking requirements, etc., testers will have to keep an eye on how those standards are evolving and incorporate changes into their workflows as they go.

The initial rollout of this technology will be pretty limited at first, so you won’t necessarily have to figure out how to reconstruct your RAN in the cloud right off the bat—but you will need to keep tabs on this technology and craft a specific plan for managing it.

This means revisiting your test cases on a regular basis to make sure that they still reflect the latest protocols and best practices. Likewise, this means delegating specific responsibilities to teams or engineers whose work will intersect with emerging 5G use cases.

4. An Increase in Connected Devices

Because 5G is theoretically going to power sub-millisecond latency times, its rise will coincide with the rise of the internet of things (IoT). Right now, a huge percentage of IoT deployment has been in factories and other industrial settings, but numerous locales are already hard at work sketching out the smart, connected cities and towns of the future.

For network operators, this will result in an increase in the diversity of devices that require compatibility verification. Not only that, but the influx of connected devices will potentially create increased load expectations for the average network—meaning that load tests will be more critical than ever, and their requirements will be more stringent.

This is another instance where the rising tide of automation will be a boon to testers. Why? Because manually connecting a large volume of devices to your network in order to load test it is a cumbersome and costly process, whereas controlling those devices via an automation framework should be comparatively painless.

5. New Security Concerns

For a while, the biggest security concerns for telco operators were for back office processes. In the billing department, for instance, you would expect to handle sensitive information that required certain protections.

With the rise of the smart home, the smart factory, and other areas where data is being constantly shared via mobile broadband, 5G, or what-have-you, the security of data in transit is more difficult to ensure than ever before.

For testers, this might mean that you have to add some penetration tests to your suite of potential test cases. Similarly, you may need to actively construct a threat model for your network, in order to ensure that you can pinpoint the right areas to test.

This might seem like it could create a lot of work for engineers, but data security and privacy are of paramount concern for your users.

The effects of a security breach on public opinion can be catastrophic, and in addition to costly incident management activities you would likely see considerable subscriber churn. All told, the negative effect on your bottom line could prove considerable.

Want to Learn More About Regression Testing?

Read our success story to learn about SEGRON’s Automated Testing Framework and how it helped a telco operator to automate regression tests!

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