5 Predictions for Testing in the 5G Era

A few months ago, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal travelled across the United States in search of 5G connectivity and documented her findings. Most of the major network players in the region were offering limited rollouts of this new technology in major cities, and the reporter was understandably interested if the early installations of 5G would live up to the tremendous hype.

Some of her findings were fairly predictable. When she could find a strong 5G signal, her download speeds were up to 1,800 megabits per second, which is more than 50 times the national average for 4G.

However, some of her findings were less predictable. For instance, she found that if outdoor temperatures were too hot, her phone would revert to a 4G connection. Likewise, her phone would also switch to 4G if the phone’s processors overheated from overuse. When this occurred, she had to stick her phone in an ice cooler for a few minutes to reconnect to the 5G service.

These are just a few examples telling us that 5G’s global rollout is going to be full of surprises for everyone involved—network operators and testers included. That said, we can still try and make some predictions about what the future might hold for service verification.

5G testing

1. Increased Test Loads

Let’s start with something that’s not too hard to see coming: an increase in overall test loads for 5G networks.
Since 5G’s sub-millisecond latency speeds and massive capacity are going to make it possible to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) devices in complex networks outside of industrial settings, it stands to reason that testers will have to verify that those new devices can actually connect to the network.

Beyond that, there’s certainly going to be an increase in network elements that need functional testing, especially when you’re deploying infrastructure for the first time. Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) is one of the foundations of 5G’s increased data speeds and requires large arrays of antennae all working in tandem. This not only adds volume, but also additional complexity to testing workflows.

In that same vein, having an additional network operating in parallel to your existing LTE, 3G, and 2G infrastructure will mean an increased number of handover and fallback scenarios requiring verification. These are minor considerations by themselves, but all together, they add up.