The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance that has been shaping the industry of wireless communication for the past 12 years is determined to drive the industry towards a healthy 5G ecosystem. This year’s NGMN Forum, which took place on 25th -26th , October 2017 in Seattle/US, demonstrated an encouraging convergence of the 5G technology, enabled by a strong spirit of co-operation of all NGMN Partners.
Among the many projects reported by NGMN, the 5G Trial and Testing Initiative (5G TTI) attracted particularly broad attention. Since the approval of this project by the NGMN Board in June 2016, operators, vendors and researchers have been working together hand in hand on a framework in accordance with the 3GPP work schedule, to guide the technology from standard to market. Leveraging on the experience from the 4G development, the 5G TTI has the single goal of facilitating the maturity of the technology and assuring an early interoperability of the products.
Given the significance of this initiative to the availability of the technology and the time-to-market, the project team has adopted a systematic and pragmatic approach, to address the following four important aspects relevant to 5G, carried out as four work streams:
Test of Technology Building Blocks (TTBB). This is the initiation phase and it frames the scope and selection of technologies being tested by the TTI. In a joint effort, the project has defined 16 candidate technical building blocks eligible to 3GPP 5G phase 1 standard. This project stream is meanwhile successfully completed and the result is available as an NGMN deliverable at www.ngmn.org.
Having accomplished the building blocks, the project team moves on to work on the following three important topics:
Proof of Concept. This aims at an early assessment of future standard based technologies. 13 test cases in two categories have been defined so far. The two categories are: Functional/architectural proof points, including massive MIMO, RAN functional split, network slicing, etc., and the key performance indicators (KPI) for system data rates, latencies, mobility, etc. These test cases will be used soon by NGMN Partners who will share their testing reports.
Pre-Commercial Network Trial. The TTI will demonstrate in this work stream the 5G capabilities and advantages in a field trial, to better prepare the industry for a successful launch of the commercial 5G network. The team will deliver the “Trial Framework Definition” reference document in the coming weeks, which comprises a description of the network domains under test, related test setups, detailed definitions of testing procedures and the success thresholds for each KPI. It is expected that, once 3GPP standard compatible equipment and software are available, the operators will set-up their own trial network, perform tests according to the framework and share their results/reports on 5G End-to-End performances.
Interoperability. Standardised technology is usually evaluated by performance and interoperability. Interoperable equipment and devices are foundations for interoperable networks and services. This work stream has the purpose of testing the interoperability of the early standard compatible products/prototypes, so that possible problems can be identified, solutions be found and standards be improved. Achievement of the interoperability will not only benefit NGMN’s vendor partners, but ultimately also all mobile network operators, because testing key interfaces will ensure the global interworking between equipment/devices from different manufacturers.
The importance of this initiative is adequately characterized by the TTI project leader Philippe Besson (Orange) in the following statement: “The NGMN 5G Trial and Testing Initiative demonstrates the capacity of NGMN to prepare the wireless industry for an efficient, successful, and in-time 5G technology and service introduction as well as for the development of globally aligned 5G technology and service solutions that are promoting new business opportunities.“
In fact, results achieved up to this point have already started to impact 5G services scheduled for February 2018, as the TTBB project leader YongGyoo Lee (KT) pointed out: “The TTBB team successfully identified a set of technical features that the operator members of NGMN prefer to introduce in the initial phase of 5G service introduction, together with the preliminary test results. The TTBB report will present a guideline to the NGMN community and other external bodies like 3GPP by enhancing the understanding on key technical building blocks of 5G and their characteristics so that it will eventually contribute to taking the 5G development closer to reality in the near future.”
In his message to the participants of the Forum, Peter Meissner, CEO NGMN Alliance, said: “The 5G Trial and Testing Initiative, as one of the NGMN flagship projects, has received unprecedented NGMN support around the globe by 19 operators and 24 vendors. It is a prominent example for the co-operative and mutually beneficial environment enabled by NGMN for the wireless industry, paving the way to an evolutionary and interoperable 5G”.