Next-gen testing tools for next-gen networks

Jessica Scarpati
02 Feb 2011

Carriers will always have to manage the basic performance metrics, like guaranteeing network equipment uptime and guarding against dropped calls. But next-generation network (NGN) services set higher expectations for advanced services and the almighty customer experience. NGN services require next-generation telecom testing tools that are flexible, customizable and focus on applications rather than the bits underneath them.

"[Legacy tools] are just testing to see if the router, firewall or switch can process the packets really, really fast. What they can't do is figure out if they can get an actual client to an actual server," said Ajit Sancheti, co-founder and vice president of business development at telecom testing tools vendor Mu Dynamics. "You need to allow [service providers] to bring in their content automatically, figure out what it is doing and allow them to build test content on it."

"It's pretty complex to test smartphones at the R&D stage, and the same thing is happening with the services," said Olga Yashkova, program leader at Frost & Sullivan. "[NGN services] add several layers of complexity, and that's why there is this need [for flexibility] with test equipment. And it's extremely difficult to get intuitive test equipment that can be custom-tailored."

The rapid convergence of voice, video and data on IMS networks -- never mind three generations of cellular technology -- has made it difficult for carriers using legacy telecom testing tools to deploy advanced services with confidence, Yashkova said.

"Because of this convergence, the communications equipment is changing and there is a need for compatible test equipment [for NGN services]," she said. "Otherwise, if a consumer has a smartphone and he's experiencing delays all the time with his application, he'll think the [network] is bad and go to another provider, so it is critical to test those services."

Like legacy telecom networks, older telecom testing tools were specific to traffic or transport mechanism -- voice, data, video, wireless -- according to Sean Yarborough, senior director of business development and strategy of service assurance products at Spirent Communications, a telecom testing vendor.

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