The rollout of 5G calls for radical changes in network architecture, technician knowledge and fiber deployed deeper into the network. To make sure those changes are successful and 5G transformations are done right the first time, operators and contractors need to revamp their testing and monitoring practices. Sites need to be certified clear and clean before operators can go live with their 5G networks.
Small cells are dominating 5G architecture
In terms of network architecture, small cell densification within urban environments is required in order to power 5G communication. More street-level small cells are what it will take to deliver on the lower latency, increased throughput, improved reliability and better coverage required to successfully deliver 5G services. To get that infrastructure up and running, operators face many challenges including jurisdictional and permitting issues, road closures and equipment-installation delays. Despite those logistical challenges, deployments must scale up quickly to meet service-rollout milestones. And at that fast pace—a 10-20x increase in small cell density—there’s no time for mistakes. Equipment must be installed right the first time—tested on the spot to reduce (or preferably eliminate) the need for future, troubleshooting-related return truck rolls.
Field technicians need to do more—and do it right the first time
Not all operators and contractors are hiring more technicians to build out 5G—and those who are find it challenging to hire candidates with the right level of expertise. Given that reality, the industry’s current group of field techs need to master the installation and turn up of 5G-related equipment while continuing to support the 4G LTE infrastructure that will work in tandem with 5G for years to come. And they need to be able to do it all very fast. Being able to do more in the midst of new, emerging technologies means a rethink of current processes, with automation—one-button, intelligent testing—being vital to the ability to deliver ultra-fast and accurate fiber connections. Improving field-tech efficiency—by using the right tools and processes to identify and troubleshoot from the beginning—can represent a timesaving of 90%, a necessary improvement when deployments are increasing so rapidly.
More fiber, deeper into the network demands thorough testing
Because of all the new requirements (e.g,. low latency, more bandwidth), new technologies (e.g. eCPRI) and new line rates (i.e. 10G, 25G) that 5G is imposing on the network, new testing practices must follow suit. Where bad splices or bad connections occurred in the past, 4G networks were quick to forgive, but 5G networks definitely won’t. So, unless thorough 5G testing practices are strictly followed, failure rates on new 5G deployments will increase.
These new testing procedures should include three major steps: fiber connector inspection, fiber link characterization and CPRI/eCPRI protocol and equipment validation. If properly performed—using optimized automated processes—operators can turn up 5G right the first time and begin monetizing their investment sooner than later.