Testing Automation: An Essential Step for Achieving Telecom Operational Excellence
Why Test Automation is a Strategic Enabler for 4G Services
If you are reading this you are likely to be someone from mobile in telecoms and are likely to be involved with product management, operations or testing and we encourage you to read on.
Suffice as to say that 4G is a new RAN and Core network which is exponentially increasing complexity with regards to testing to make sure the services are compatible with 2G, 3G and universal.
Unlike in the U.S.A. there is no time frame in Europe to switch off 2G/3G services as this remains the base line for all voice and text messaging as well as it prevails as the main bearer of M2M (Machine to Machine) services, of maybe as much as 95% of the M2M traffic. In fact some Operators have used the 4G investment wave to upgrade their 2G/3G capabilities and coverage.
Operators are also facing challenges externally and in particular with regards to interconnection, as partner Operators are evolving their networks, making continuity difficult to achieve. Actually, with regards to the latest service named Voice over LTE (VoLTE), the interconnection landscape and commercial standardisation are still immature and rely on the open IMS standard which has yet to be standardized on a practical level.
Given this background, it is vital that Operators understand that they will have to do far more testing in reduced cycles to maintain standards, yet alone improve them, which makes automation strategically imperative for success. Business cases show time saving of 80% are not uncommon when testing is automated, which is a substantial saving.
What does BlueTC recommend?
Ideally Operators would implement a test orchestration tool for their labs where they can map the lab topology, including both physical and virtual resources and assets, such as nodes, testing equipment, connections, testers.
Once captured within this test Orchestration tool this information is readily available for test orchestration, planning and execution and can be used iteratively to optimise the use of your test facilities on a 24/7 basis.
The migration of existing manual test procedures is achieved by capturing and recording the individual steps which, once within the automation tool, can then be incorporated and reused at will as part of test planning and executable tests. This frees up your test teams and enables them to carry out work of a higher value and shifts the focus to validating the outcomes of tests and root cause diagnosis.
As tests are executed each step is captured and therefore automatically provides a complete audit trail to help with diagnosis and optimisation. This can be configured to be made available to team members, who might be dispersed, allowing testers to share “best practice” and focus on team collaboration.
With regards to the automation of interconnection, we suggest Operators make sure they have reference equipment available to simulate the signaling and RTP traffic of their interconnection partners as an intermediary test before carrying out live tests in external networks. Suffice as to say that when choosing such equipment it should be “future proof” and be able to support services such as VoLTE.
BlueTC welcomes the opportunity of helping you make testing automation a reality and look forward to hearing from you.
Ian Ginn is Blue Telecom Consulting’s Sales Director in the UK and has ample experience from the international telecommunications industry.
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