Fifth-generation wireless, 5G, is the latest cellular technology, engineered to increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. However, it is much more than just data speed. A whole new set of use cases and applications will touch all facets of our lives. 5G will influence the entire mobile network and associated eco-system, from devices to radio access, IP core and the cloud.

Handling something that spans such a large scale, is certainly a mammoth task which requires collaboration and cooperation among the industry players. A considerable amount of work has been done. However, 5G remains a bit of unchartered territory.

While the companies speculated what 5G will be, what technologies to use and how to deliver the diverse services; 3GPP helped streamline that with it’s work in the later version of Rel14 and early versions of Rel15. The non-standalone (NSA) mode which is proposed to be the first mode of 5G deployment, will have dual connectivity supporting the New Radio (NR) and the existing eUTRAN and the evolved packet core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage. The standalone (SA) mode which is proposed to be the second mode of deployment, would not rely on existing LTE elements and will be deployed in isolation.

While many service providers insist to take this phased approach, there is also a strong urge from several others to proceed straight to the greenfield deployments with the SA mode. This leaves the chipset vendors, equipment manufacturers and others in ecosystem to wonder and speculate which mode to support first. To complicate the matters, the specifications are bound to be revised many times for both the SA and NSA mode in the upcoming baseline releases.

Test and measurement solutions will be key in the commercialization cycle. Reducing the testing costs will play a key role in the success of 5G. If there isn’t a compelling business case to deploy 5G services, the technology may not roll out as expected.

What is needed is a new approach for 5G test architecture that will help operators and equipment suppliers validate their hardware, software and configurations to ensure they perform as expected and deliver an excellent customer experience

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