Verizon to start field tests on 5G—The Next Generation of User Experience

Ever imagined a world where airplanes are fifty times bigger and travel forty times faster? Probably not. But here at Spirent we can see a future where cellular communications will soon achieve this feat. The fifth generation of mobile technology, or 5G for short, may well be arriving much earlier than expected and it is slated to be capable of connecting a large number of diverse devices while providing even faster connections. Recent news on Verizon’s planned field testing of 5G technology has caused a considerable stir in the media. Reports suggest that Verizon may be in a position to partially launch a 5G network as early as 2017. This is much earlier than initial estimates provided by other telecom companies which have set expectations of 5G roll outs beginning in 2022. 5G, which will be an upgrade from the current 4G LTE, is already dubbed as a technology leap from contemporary networks. While, it is commonly understood that 5G will outperform 4G LTE in almost every aspect of performance, the question on many minds is “what will distinguish 5G services relative to legacy services?” And the answer is, undoubtedly, user experience.


A white paper published by New Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Alliance identifies user experience as a defining feature of the 5G network. The paper illustrates the need for 5G networks to be able to connect seamlessly in densely populated or high mobility environments with multiple types of devices and multiple types of access technologies at the same time. The current 4G LTE network may be called fast enough for users who consume video streaming, navigation and social media apps. However, the current technology often fails to deliver in heterogeneous environments such as in sports arenas, music concert venues and subway trains. Therefore, 5G must be able to distinguish itself from the current 4G LTE by being able to provide superior data speeds, improved handover, lower latency and higher throughput even in heterogeneous environments. In fact, the real test for 5G will be in scenarios where the network is most challenged to meet user expectations. That could be watching 3D video replays of a touchdown scored in a football game (while in the stadium) or two airline passengers connecting with each other for online gaming.

Here at Spirent, we’re excited about Verizon’s aggressive push to develop 5G technology and in particular the move to get 5G into the field. One of our specialties is evaluation of the user experience of new devices and services in field environments with real infrastructure. Most recently we performed cross network tests of IMS-enabled voice services in live networks, including measuring the impact of handoffs on user experience when transitioning from VoWiFi to VoLTE and vice versa. The test results showed that key elements of user experience such as setup time, dropped calls and speech quality degraded significantly when transitioning from Wi-Fi to 3G/4G mobile networks and vice-versa. These results show that changing the network infrastructure and device architecture to provide ubiquitous connectivity and superior user and service experience is a huge challenge. However, as Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Given how critical user experience will be to 5G, we’re advising our customers moving to 5G to evaluate user experience early and often – in both the lab and pilot and live networks – including benchmarking vs. 4G services. With this type of a structured approach to evaluating user experience, we’re confident the underlying technical challenges will be addressed and 5G will be another major success for the industry. 

Watch our webinar on “Assuring the successful launch of VoWiFi devices and services” to learn more about how to evaluate VoWiFi user experience. To learn more about Spirent’s User and Service experience solutions, click here.

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