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Integrated Emulation Suite Takes on End-to-End O-RAN Test and Validation

Feb. 14, 2023
Spirent’s integrated emulation suite purports to conquer the end-to-end test difficulties posed by O-RAN’s disaggregated architecture.

The Overview

Spirent Communications is now offering end-to-end, open distributed-unit (O-DU), and RAN intelligence controller (RIC) testing, completing its Open RAN (O-RAN) test solution portfolio. By building on its previously available open central-unit (O-CU) and open radio-unit (O-RU) test solutions, the company offers robust and realistic O-RAN testing, which will both accelerate widespread O-RAN adoption and ensure O-RAN functionality, interoperability, and field-ready performance.

Who Needs It & Why?

O-RAN cellular network architectures enable service providers to run key network functions as virtualized software on vendor-neutral hardware. This gives O-RAN architectures lots of potential in terms of innovation and cost. At the same time, however, there’s a level of complexity added to test, especially for operators saddled with the integration of network elements coming from multiple vendors.

Spirent has identified four key customer groups that can benefit from its end-to-end O-RAN testing:

  • Chipset makers who have DU/RU components in development can gain from test capabilities that go beyond incremental testing and show how the devices will perform in the full network context.
  • Network equipment and software makers who must evaluate products at a level that transcends standard 3GPP test requirements.
  • Network operators who must shoulder more of the test responsibility as they adopt O-RAN architectures.
  • System integrators who work with network operators to deploy O-RAN architectures.

Under the Hood

With the growing proliferation of O-RAN architectures, emulation comes to the forefront as a critical technology of any O-RAN testbed. To enable the above sets of customers to realize the potential of O-RAN, ultimately spurring innovation and lower costs, real-time emulation must run the gamut from the 5G core to individual O-RAN components to the RF environment. Functional and performance tests of any of these components must have real emulation in real-time, at performance and at scale.

“This comprehensive O-RAN portfolio reduces test time while increasing test coverage and enabling CI/CD processes,” said James Kimery, VP of product management for Spirent’s Lifecycle Service Assurance business. “Nodal testing is new, isolating a RAN functional block and testing at scale has never been done before. These solutions will go a long way toward maturing O-RAN technology."

The suite provides what’s said to be a simplified and automated approach to real-time emulation. It offers fully integrated solutions, pre-built test cases, and centralized control through a unified user interface.

Spirent’s unique O-RAN portfolio provides the following:

  • Comprehensive multi-vendor interoperability and advanced performance testing using real-time emulation: The company offers thorough, reliable, and realistic testing using comprehensive test portfolios and real-time (bidirectional) emulation, which most accurately reflects a live, real-world O‑RAN environment.
  • Automation: Spirent’s O-RAN solutions provide pre-built test libraries across performance, resiliency, security, compliance, and more via a fully integrated system with open APIs. In addition, the solution is designed to plug-and-play seamlessly into any automation pipeline.
  • Single user experience: O-RAN testing requires a variety of testing and emulation approaches, which the company integrated into a system managed through a single user experience, regardless of the testing type being executed.
About the Author

David Maliniak | Executive Editor, Microwaves & RF

I am Executive Editor of Microwaves & RF, an all-digital publication that broadly covers all aspects of wireless communications. More particularly, we're keeping a close eye on technologies in the consumer-oriented 5G, 6G, IoT, M2M, and V2X markets, in which much of the wireless market's growth will occur in this decade and beyond. I work with a great team of editors to provide engineers, developers, and technical managers with interesting and useful articles and videos on a regular basis. Check out our free newsletters to see the latest content.

You can send press releases for new products for possible coverage on the website. I am also interested in receiving contributed articles for publishing on our website. Use our contributor's packet, in which you'll find an article template and lots more useful information on how to properly prepare content for us, and send to me along with a signed release form. 

About me:

In his long career in the B2B electronics-industry media, David Maliniak has held editorial roles as both generalist and specialist. As Components Editor and, later, as Editor in Chief of EE Product News, David gained breadth of experience in covering the industry at large. In serving as EDA/Test and Measurement Technology Editor at Electronic Design, he developed deep insight into those complex areas of technology. Most recently, David worked in technical marketing communications at Teledyne LeCroy, leaving to rejoin the EOEM B2B publishing world in January 2020. David earned a B.A. in journalism at New York University.

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