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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.