The pace of 5G trials has “rapidly accelerated during the past six months,” according to new information from Viavi Solutions on the state of 5G trials.

Viavi said that 72 operators are testing 5G, which is almost three times the number that were testing 5G technologies at this time a year ago. Nearly 30 of those operators say they are in field testing for 5G.  Another 28 operators have announced plans for 5G tests. Two operators have even launched pre-commercial, limited 5G services: Etisalat has 5G NR sites in Abu Dhabi, UAE that are operating at 3.3-3.8 GHz and Oreedoo has launched “5G Speed Experiences” in Qatar on specialized devices.

Frequency ranges involved in 5G testing range from sub-3 GHz to 86 GHz, the company said. Achieved speeds vary significantly: six operators have achieved 10 Gbps, another half dozen have reached more than 35 Gbps, and four (including Etisalat) have reported speeds topping 70 Mbps.

“Expectations for 5G are sky-high, offering mobile operators new opportunities for revenue,” said Stéphane Téral, Executive Director of Research and Analysis, Mobile Infrastructure and Carrier Economics, IHS Markit. “Yet the path to full 5G adoption is complicated and still evolving. Operators and infrastructure vendors across the globe are moving at varying speeds when it comes to testing and deployment — they need to act now to address technology challenges.”

“Network service providers have been grappling with the evolution to 5G for some time, including how to address technology challenges such as fixed mobile convergence, hybrid cloud, network slicing and increasing virtualization,” said Sameh Yamany, Chief Technology Officer, VIAVI Solutions. “Virtual test, automation, self-optimization and analytics will be essential to dealing with the growing complexity and scale of 5G networks, while managing demand for high data rates, very low latency applications and large-scale IoT services.”

Viavi has summarized the report in an infographic that is available here (pdf). And 5G testing continues to move quickly, with a number of test and new capabilities announced head of next week’s Mobile World Congress event. CSpire said this week that in addition to testing millimeter-wave systems at 28 GHz and 60 GHz, it is trying out a “patented 5G technology” at 3.65 GHz that utilizes Cohere Technologies’ Orthogonal Time Frequency and Space modulation, rather than Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), and showed off the technology for Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr. Meanwhile, National Instruments and Samsung plan to demonstrate their collaboration on 5G interoperability device testing (making sure that a test user device can communicate with a 5G base station) at 28 GHz at MWC. Also, Keysight Technologies said that its 5G New Radio-ready testbed was used to validate the first commercial 5G NR active array antenna designs at 26 GHz, from Ball Aerospace and Anokiwave. Keysight will demo its over-the-air measurement capabiltiies for 5G NR with a Ball Aerospace phased array antenna at MWC.

In other test news:

PCTel is floating the concept of using augmented reality in interference hunting in a demo at MWC, where people will be able to try its SeeWave handheld and a Microsoft HoloLens to “visualize spectrum and identify potential sources of interference in the real world,” the company said. SeeWave has a new user interface for Android tablets that enables the demo.

“Efficient interference hunting is critical as operators continue to add spectrum and maximize capacity from existing frequency bands using both 4G and 5G technologies,” said Jeff Miller, seniro VP and GM of RF solutions at PCTel. “PCTel’s concept for an augmented reality based interference detection system represents the future of test and measurement.”

Rohde & Schwarz has launched a new Smart test platform that aims to be a comprehensive, one-stop offering for testing from the lab to the field that better integrates testing, monitoring and analytics with carrier processes. The company described the new platform as a “software quite covering lab engineering, field acceptance, optimization, benchmarking and monitoring with common modules.”

R&S said that the platform “relies on a unified set of collecting probes based on the QualiPoc handheld for active testing with smartphones and on R&S TSMx scanners for passive measurements.” Some elements of the platform have been available since last year, R&S noted, but it will be demonstrating expanded platform capabilities at MWC and will be launching a new analytics suite that will be commercially available in June.

“New market opportunities in IoT, content delivery and mission-critical services are materializing, however the investments required to meet the demand for capacity and higher [quality of experience]expectations are outpacing current revenue growth. A key element to an operator’s success is therefore turning the efficiency and capabilities promised by the new technologies into more capacity and a customer experience superior to that of the competition,” said Massimiliano Mannelli, senior director of product management and portfolio strategy at Rohde & Schwarz mobile network testing. He added that the new platform “helps operators achieve that by collecting critical data and generating insights into QoE and its relation to network performance while bringing a new level of integration and efficiency to testing activities.”

Rohde & Schwarz also recently launched what it says is the first moveable chamber for over-the-air testing of 5G antennas, transceivers and devices. The ATS1000 supports far-field measurements. It’s a rack-sized test chamber on caster wheels, with device mounts inside and a wideband measurement antenna that supports a frequency range from 18 GHz to 87 GHz.

R&S is one of two companies supporting testing for Broadcom’s 802.11ac chips (the other is LitePoint), and said this week it is working with Gemalto to develop new tools that minimize multi-region drive-testing for LTE and LTE-Advanced modules. The company is also supporting massive  multiple-input-multiple-output testing with Blue Danube.

EXFO has partnered with networking company ADVA to integrate EXFO’s network function virtualization service assurance offering with ADVA’s Ensemble open virtualization suite, building in service assurance capabilities to a managed software-defined Wide Area Network orchestration offering.

“The nature of an open, VNF-based solution requires a different approach to network and service assurance since service quality can no longer be inferred solely from network and equipment quality metrics provided by the VNF vendors themselves,” said Claudio Mazzuca, VP of systems and analytics at EXFO. “By including EXFO’s active service assurance vProbe VNFs in the service chain, the service orchestrator can automatically test and verify a service before turning it over to the customer and can implement end-to-end service monitoring, based on policy or operational needs. Automating these functions is the only way to address the anticipated scaling of new services.”

– A new report from Frost & Sullivan identifies five areas which it says will create more than $30 billion in new test and measurement revenues by 2023: connected cars and autonomous driving, with a focus on connectivity for infotainment systems;  5G; modulation instrumentation; internet of things devices; and the growth of the test market in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Asia has become the manufacturing hub of the world and holds special importance for vendors, but it is also making inroads in research and development, which will further increase its importance going forward,” said Jessy Cavazos, industry director for measurement and instrumentation at Frost & Sullivan. “This region will also create significant opportunities for T&M vendors in the aerospace & defense industry.”

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