As 5G is being deployed, the latest in wireless technology is bringing new use cases and potential revenue streams to life. It is also bringing new demands to network deployment and testing. Even though 5G is still in its early days, networks are already evolving as operators deploy new spectrum in the low, mid and high bands to extend the reach and capacity of their 5G implementations, take advantage of additional new services and even move to end-to-end standalone 5G.
“The goal of 5G technology extends a little bit more than just serving mobile broadband, and it offers key advancement that offers a much, much wider range of applications,” said Danny Sleiman, Product Line Manager for 5G transport and RF test solutions at EXFO. He points out that 5G is being deployed both in sub-6 GHz (Frequency Range 1) and millimeter wave bands (Frequency Range 2), and that recent spectrum auctions have also led to operators either deploying newly available spectrum, such as C-band or preparing to do so with CBRS. In particular, that mid-band spectrum will help network operators to scale their 5G networks.
Key technologies being implemented in 5G include beamforming, massive MIMO and spectrum sharing. In addition, Sleiman notes, timing and synchronization is increasingly important in order to achieve precise, low-latency connections, with timing becoming required across all network elements from the core to edge.
“It’s really exciting technology, but it is a challenging technology,” Sleiman added.
In the midst of that technological complexity due to using mid- and high-band spectrum and increasing site density, Sleiman said, it will be crucial for operators to resolve radio frequency (RF) issues as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the network capacity, subscriber quality of experience and ultimately, the revenues from these newly deployed 5G networks will be negatively impacted.
EXFO has developed its newly launched 5GPro Spectrum Analyzer to meet the current and future testing needs of wireless network operators and those who deploy them. The 5GPro Spectrum Analyzer is the industry’s only modular, field-focused RF testing solution that can analyze both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave in a single, field-upgradeable solution. It is designed for spectrum clearing, interference hunting, 5G cellular site installation and indoor DAS validation, and it enables field techs and RF engineers to meet the challenges of 5G deployment.
This solution is easy to use, with smart features that take the complexity out of RF testing. The lightweight, portable spectrum analyzer is field-upgradable, supporting both FR1 and FR2 testing for optimal scalability. It provides the option to start with FR1 and add FR2 as requirements change, without having to send back to the manufacturer for upgrades. The 5GPro Spectrum Analyzer is part of EXFO’s FTB 5GPro test kit, which enables a wide variety of over-the-air and wired (fiber and protocol) testing in a modular instrument.
“A lot of the deployments that we’re seeing are FR1 today, and as we go to FR2 and [operators’] networks transform, they’ll be able to easily upgrade to that FR2 solution,” Sleiman says. This can happen right in the field, he adds, eliminating downtime and enabling faster deployment with accurate, holistic testing that enables techs and engineers to do their work quickly and accurately as operators push to deploy as rapidly as possible.
“The reality today is that field techs are asked to do a lot more than they used to,” Sleiman said – and that isn’t just limited to RF testing, but fiber validation, CPRI/eCPRI testing, RF spectrum analysis over CPRI, and timing and synchronization as well. “When you have a lot of cell sites to cover, you want to make sure your results are good from the first time, so you don’t have to go back to the site.”