Spirent adds support for testing Wi-Fi through RF interface

Spirent Communications is using Mobile World Congress 2015 to announce support for testing Wi-Fi access points through an RF interface on its flagship product Spirent Landslide, enabling operators to ensure they can deliver reliable and seamless Wi-Fi calling services to subscribers under fully loaded conditions.

Having the ability to test under loaded conditions is key as more traffic gets offloaded to Wi-Fi. It's easy to make one handset work on a network but it's a different scenario when the network is fully loaded, and operators need to make sure everything performs as it's supposed to under stressed conditions.

Of course, the impetus behind the ability to validate handoffs between mobile networks, carrier Wi-Fi hotspots and private wireless networks is the trend for more traffic to get offloaded to Wi-Fi. By 2017, 60 percent of cellular network traffic will be offloaded to Wi-Fi, according to the Wireless Broadband Association (WBA).

Spirent is also a technology partner in the WBA and GSMA's next-generation Wi-Fi network at this week's MWC. The temporary network allows subscribers of participating carriers to roam seamlessly onto the public Wi-Fi network at the Fira Gran Via venue. 

When Wi-Fi offload was first envisioned and implemented, it was a way to cheaply backhaul data traffic, but now the industry is taking its bread-and-butter voice service to Wi-Fi, which means operators and equipment vendors need to test it under various scenarios, said Ross Cassan, director of product marketing at Spirent, in an interview with FierceWirelessTech.

Spirent points out that the Wi-Fi access point and offload gateway are critical elements in ensuring seamless and secure service handoff from the mobile network. The access point allows wireless devices to connect to the wireline network, while the offload gateway provides the bridge to the mobile packet core and is the relay point for authentication and carrier services.

John Baker, general manager of the Mobility Infrastructure business unit at Spirent, said the whole move to virtualization will increase the need for good tools to test in that environment.

With software-defined network (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), "the whole move to virtualization essentially means we have to virtualize our test tools, so what they virtualize, you can actually test," he said. Unlike a physical box where you can measure what you have, the virtualized world means that "you've got to trust that the message you're getting back from the computing engines are exactly right, and you set this thing up as you meant to set it up."

Spirent is also taking part in the broader industry discussions about adding new features to LTE, including Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) in the 5 GHz band.

On the equipment side, Spirent's customers tend to be a year or two ahead of the deployment cycle and the carriers rely on Spirent's tools to test out any initial technology like Wi-Fi calling to make sure their networks are ready for it. They can also work out the "gotchas" that they didn't see coming, identifying any weak points before they deploy it commercially.

"We have to be up there even ahead of the game, even on 5G, we've got testbeds," Baker said. "To be competitive in this space we've got to be up with those new technologies."

For more:
- see the press release

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