5G is becoming a reality, but the roll-out has been slower than some hype would suggest. The high frequencies that 5G depends on are easily blocked by solid objects, and in any case don’t propagate as far as lower frequency 4G signals do.Ericsson, a multinational company that deals in information and communication technology (sometimes shortened to ICT) in partnership with service providers, reports that there are currently 19 live 5G networks across four continents (at the time of this writing). Many more cell towers will be required, however, before 5G is truly adopted around the world.
To minimize expenses, providers must measure signal penetration to all covered areas. Otherwise, all those new 5G phones that consumers are shelling out big bucks for will end depending on existing, old-fashioned 4G coverage. Verification of the coverage, performance, and operation of 5G networks will be critical. So how do these companies measure how wide their 5G net extends and how well it’s performing?
Measuring 5G Penetration
You as an engineer may think of test and measurement company Rohde & Schwarz and immediately think of oscilloscopes. In reality, however, the company also has a hand in broadcast media, radiocommunications, and cybersecurity. With this background, it makes sense that Rohde & Schwarz has supplied mobile network testing tools for measuring drone-based network coverage. The performance and operation tests will be managed by Ericsson, a global force in network infrastructure.
The operational team for the project was based in Jorvas, Finland. It was led by Ericsson’s 5G Readiness Program RAN Technical Lead Richard Wirén. Together with Centria University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University, they developed a system for testing cellular mobile network coverage. This system employs mobile network testing scanners and smartphones from Rohde & Schwarz mounted on a drone that can be programmed to execute tests automatically.
The airborne, automated system can be programmed to follow a specific three-dimensional route. This third dimension and they repeatable positional accuracy gives the system a distinct advantage over traditional walk and drive tests.