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Test and Measurement: ‘Opportunities for improvement’ in Rakuten Mobile’s 5G Open RAN, SRG finds

Rakuten Mobile’s Open RAN 5G network leaves something to be desired in terms of both spectral efficiency and performance, according to new testing from Signals Research Group.

SRG conducted the tests over three days in late April, looking at both Rakuten’s 5G and LTE networks. The company’s 5G network is Open-RAN-based, while its LTE network “brings together multiple vendors without strictly adhering to Open RAN specifications,” SRG noted in a report preview. And while Open RAN was “inherently included” in the testing, the use of Open RAN still didn’t “define the results”, SRG explained. Open RAN enables the inclusion of new and multiple vendors, and thus the testing was really, more a test of the vendors providing the Centralized Unit (CU), DU Distributed Unit (DU) and Radio Unit (RU) equipment involved rather than testing of Open RAN itself.

SRG used five smartphones with “unlimited” data usage, but encountered throttling after “relatively minor” usage of 5 GB daily that put a bit of a cramp in its usual testing style, but it was able to remove results from when the throttling kicked in.

“Although the network supported most features associated with a best-in-class 5G network, there are opportunities for meaningful improvements to many of these features,” SRG concluded, particularly in terms of simultaneous scheduling of data packets over 5G and LTE. In particular, SRG observed that “network performance was severely impacted with
HTTP data transfers, degrading performance over both LTE and especially 5G.” Better results were seen with the UDP protocol or while using Ookla’s Speedtest application — but HTTP is what accounts for most Internet-related traffic. With HTTP, SRG said, 5G throughput in both uplink and downlink “fell well short of expectations with both LTE and especially mid-band 5G.”

SRG said that overall, spectral efficiency for Rakuten’s network was highest with LTE only, followed by LTE operating alongside 5G, then by 5G by itself—which it said was due to scheduling inefficiency.

SRG also noted that based on its testing, Rakuten Mobile’s published 5G network coverage map is “a bit generous regarding where it shows 5G to be available.” The firm said that it saw less midband 5G than it would’ve expected, given what it has observed in other markets like the U.S., and that “5G mmWave performance was consistent with the [radio frequency] conditions, but the RF conditions where we found mmWave signals were never optimal.”

SRG conducted its testing using solutions from Accuver Americas (XCAL-Solo and XCAP) and Spirent Communications (Umetrix Data). More detail from Signals Research Group available here.

In other test news:

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Spirent Communications has launched a new security automation package as part of its 5G Core Automation Platform for its Spirent Landslide solution, building upon the subscription-based, automated test platform that debuted last year. The test company says that the new security automation package “enables service providers to accelerate time-to-market by up to 60% and achieve cost savings of up to 80%.”

“Unlike any of its predecessors, 5G represents a fundamental disaggregation of the network, opening areas of vulnerabilities susceptible to exploits or malicious activity,” said Doug Roberts, GM of Spirent’s lifecycle service assurance business, in a statement. “It is imperative that every 5G operator integrate security-based testing into a continuous test model. Our latest 5G Core Automation offering will help to keep operators protected from potential security impacts.”

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
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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