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Many people are understandably excited about the 5G network. However, the only way to determine whether it can meet expectations is to run specific tests to gauge its reliability and overall performance. Here are some fascinating examples of recent progress in the world of 5G testing.
Digital Twins for Better Testing Flexibility
The 5G network offers abundant potential, but it comes with testing challenges. Sameh Yamany, the chief technology officer at Viavi Solutions, explained that 5G has forced network operators to move out of the silo structure they once maintained. Network providers also must assess whether their infrastructure can handle a growing assortment of connectivity use cases.
Yamany explained digital twins are helping companies manage all those evolving aspects that will factor into 5G testing. “Since it is all software, we can bring data from the real network and create a digital twin, very similar to the real one, where you can test new ideas, new policies, new apps.” He clarified that digital twins could determine whether a 5G app works within the expected performance parameters or facilitate bringing new components onto a network with less disruption.
“The best innovation is the one we don’t know yet,” Yamany said. “Providing this kind of platform will enable a lot of these innovations.”
Ericsson Tests City-Based 5G Performance With a Digital Twin
Ericsson provides engineers with a digital twin to test how future 5G networks will work. One recent test involved using it to simulate 5G reception within a six-block area of Stockholm. The digital twin includes 3D versions of all the respective buildings and landmarks.
The goal is to use the digital twin to examine the effects of the environment on the 5G signals and then rely on that data to figure out the best places for towers. Soon, the engineers will be able to engage with the digital twin simulations with virtual reality. Doing that will let them see how moving objects might affect 5G reception.
“We are dealing with millimetre-wave signals over the 30 gigahertz spectrum, said Mathias Riback, head of standards and technology at Ericsson. “A small lamppost or even the branches on a tree can affect the rate of propagation. So you need to have very detailed models if you want to predict very precisely what’s happening. That’s what we are evaluating here, how close to reality we can come.”
Successful Network Slicing Tests Promote Usability
5G network speeds can reach up to approximately 20 Gbps, representing a major improvement over 4G’s top speed of 1 Gbps. However, telecom engineers have anticipated the reality that not everyone who uses 5G will need to take advantage of the highest speeds. Some may only need to harness its capabilities for specific, short-term purposes, such as to launch a high-tech activation at the grand opening of a retail store.
Situations like these are where an option called network slicing can help. It’s a configuration option whereby independent, virtualized networks get deployed on top of existing physical infrastructure. That makes it possible to segment virtual pieces of that real network to use them for specific purposes or customer requirements.
Network Slicing Keeps Video Streams Playing Smoothly
Recent progress in 5G testing has shed light on why network slicing could be so useful in the near future. In one world-first test for a proof of concept, a video director was able to get on-demand network slices according to the computing requirements of specific media streams. Doing that enabled getting uninterrupted high-quality results, even during network congestion.
This experiment also relied on automation to achieve configuration, provisioning and end-to-end orchestration. The people involved in the test believe the results could pave the way for options that create an as-a-service model for 5G network utilization.
Network Slicing Made Possible Via a 30-Minute Deployment
Vodafone recently performed a similar lab test in the United Kingdom that allowed setting up a network slice for a dedicated use in only 30 minutes. Vodafone representatives noted that customers will use an automated portal to choose and provide their desired network slices when this technology is commercially available.
“Network slicing is an incredibly valuable step forward,” said Vodafone UK chief network officer Andrea Dona. “By segmenting our network and customizing different slices for different requirements, we can bring to life new ideas that would be impossible otherwise. When we configure our network to empower new services, industries like gaming, entertainment and health care can enter a new era. What might seem like science fiction is one step closer thanks to network slicing.”
Promising 5G Test Results in Health Care Could Save Lives
5G networks can achieve latency as low as 1 millisecond, or a 50-fold improvement over 4G. That allows these networks to have near-real-time communication with cloud-based technologies. It’s easy to envision how that low-latency aspect could be particularly game-changing in an industry like health care, where delays can have life-or-death impacts.
People familiar with the medical sector have said for a while that 5G could tremendously transform patient and provider options. The outcomes of 5G testing in that regard have shown what’s possible and that their hopes are not far-fetched.
In one test, a surgeon in Athens, Greece, remotely received ultrasound and X-ray images through an augmented reality application to support people in the operating room. Those came from a mock patient who needed a heart operation in France’s Rennes University Hospital. This trial reportedly gave more efficiency and confidence to the on-site surgical team that received the remote colleague’s input.
A 5G Test Shows the Benefit of Remote Patient Assessment in En-Route Ambulances
Ambulance crews often stay in contact with hospital personnel when they’re on the way with patients in distress. However, a recent 5G test assessed the options for using the network to transmit real-time audio, video and vital-sign data from patients.
The trial, which occurred over a 5G test network in The Netherlands, involved giving an ambulance service’s chief medical officer an ongoing data feed to aid decision-making. That leader could receive visual information, which is a significant improvement over the audio-only content typically received from ambulances headed to hospitals.
Data associated with this study indicated that 15%-30% of patients are unnecessarily brought to hospitals because paramedics are overly conservative with triage methods. In such cases, the people in need of medical attention could have safely received it elsewhere.
The results of this 5G test showed that when the chief medical officer had visual and vital sign data from the patient, they were better able to support paramedics in their decision-making. They could also assist in making diagnoses faster.
The next phase of this test concerns creating a 5G link between an ambulance, road infrastructure and the medical facility. Researchers hope that connectivity will give the ambulance priority access when encountering intersections and bridges by controlling traffic signals.
5G Testing Is Necessary for Tech Success
Not all 5G tests have impressive outcomes. However, the takeaways from the efforts mentioned above and others like them will help telecom professionals discover what the new network can do and what must happen to reduce any shortcomings.