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The pandemic is forcing a shift to remote testing. Will it last?

The pandemic is forcing a shift to remote testing. Will it last?
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The global pandemic is driving a shift toward the use of remote, virtualized testing in lieu of in-person network technician visits, according to a new survey of communications service providers. Most CSPs believe the shift is temporary, but a small percentage say that the change is permanent.

Eighty-five percent of respondents to the 2021 Network Test Survey commissioned by Viavi Solutions reported that in-person visits by network techs had been either reduced or eliminated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Work on telecom networks is considered essential, but CSPs made efforts starting early on in the pandemic to limit in-person tech visits and expand the use of self-installation. More than 55% of CSPs said that they had transitioned from instrument-based testing to remote, virtualized testing. While the vast majority of respondents — nearly 80% — said that they expected the change to be temporary, 7% said that the change is permanent.

In another sign that in-person testing by technicians is likely to rebound, 85% of CSPs surveyed agreed that in-person tech visits “remain an essential part of activating, maintaining and troubleshooting network service.”

At least 30% of service providers said that they were increasingly relying on contractors to help maintain quality of experience during the pandemic.

Overall, CSPs reported that virtualization, automation and network slicing are driving the need for network testing, monitoring and assurance.

“Prior to the pandemic, service providers had begun turning to technologies like automation, AI and virtualization to control costs while improving the customer experience. The current situation has only accelerated the adoption of these advanced technologies,” said Kevin Oliver, VP and GM of converged instruments and virtual test at Viavi. “To ensure performance of more complex, next-generation networks, service providers need advanced test and assurance solutions and automated workflows, particularly when they are increasingly relying on contractors for crucial field testing.”

While telecom networks have weathered the changes wrought by the global pandemic well overall, the report concluded that the “massive increases in network traffic wrought by COVID-19 underscored the importance of
subscriber experience.”

Where are subscriber experience issues happening? Access network performance is still seen by 70% of CSPs as the primary factor that determines user experience, followed by backhaul network performance (41%) and core network performance (37%).

Despite the challenges to network testing that have been presented by the pandemic, most CSPs haven’t reduced the number of test cases that are performed. Only 22% of CSPs said they had reduced their test case count — and 93% of those surveyed said that they believe testing improves customer satisfaction and reduces church, while nearly 80% said that upfront testing reduces the costs associated with correcting issues later.

The survey was based on responses from 54 members of the Technology Innovation Council, which is comprised of senior executives from more than 70 Tier 1 and Tier 2 service providers around the world.

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Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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