As 5G starts making its way into broader deployment, new bands and technologies are bringing additional complications to the Radio Access Network: Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, massive MIMO and millimeter wave, just to name a few.
How do you efficiently test, optimize and troubleshoot in a newly complex radio frequency environment? Scanning receivers for walk- and drive-testing offer a view of the RF landscape across multiple cellular and IoT technologies and across a wide range of bands. These devices enable engineers to understand RF coverage and the quality of that coverage, according to Chintan Fafadia, senior director of product management at PCTEL.
Because scanning receivers operate independently from the network, they provide a more detailed view of the RF environment than device-based testing, which can be affected by subtle differences built into UEs, Fafadia said. Scanning receivers are useful at multiple phases of the network lifecycle, from pre-deployment planning to network maintenance; can support between eight to ten different technologies (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, public safety and IoT technologies) and can take between 50 to 100 measurements per second for rapid evaluation of RF conditions and issues.
“When you start looking at network issues, you can actually sectionalize them. Around 60 to 70 percent of issues originate in the RAN,” Fafadia said. “You need devices like scanning receivers which can give you independent data to make sure that you can capture the reasons behind these issues in your RA and solve them and provide resolution to your customer.”
While device-based testing is helpful for understanding the user experience, scanning receivers can be used to actually pinpoint and resolve the RF issues that device-based testing identifies. Data from device-based testing can be combined with scanning receiver data to understand what’s actually going on in the network and deliver the coverage, throughput and quality of network that has been promised to an operator, Fafadia said.
In a recent RCR Wireless News webinar, Fafadia shared insights from the field gathered with PCTEL’s scanning receivers, which support both sub-6 GHz and mmWave frequencies up to 40 GHz and can scan both frequency types simultaneously to enable more efficient testing. Among other points, he highlighted the complexity of testing and optimizing mmWave and massive MIMO installations. It is particularly important to understand the behavior of mmWave signals in different environments (indoor and outdoor; accounting for shadowing effects and reflections) and also the interactions between LTE and 5G sites in the context of NonStandalone 5G – which relies on an LTE anchor – and Standalone 5G, which will still fall back to LTE.
All of these RF details, Fafadia said, are going to be “very crucial in how we first baseline these networks and then how we design these networks and do measurements optimizing these networks in the right way.”
Listen to Fafadia on the webinar, “Transitioning to 5G: RF Testing and Optimization for NSA, SA and DSS” here [link to webinar again]. For more information on scanning receivers, visit PCTEL to learn more here.
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