End-to-end testing: for many telco operators it’s the holy grail of service verification, but it can also be a slow, laborious process that adversely impacts time to market. Even if you’ve managed to automate your relevant equipment and collect success and failure data from the relevant end-points, you might still find yourself in a position where hard-to-read data and hard-to-program use cases stop your end-to-end tests from running as quickly as you would like. When this happens, you’re in the uncomfortable position of either sacrificing high levels of test coverage by cutting the test off early, or delaying your network migration or device rollout to accommodate slow testing.
As recently as a few years ago, the idea of a smart home—in which all of your appliances and other sensors around your home are networked together digitally—still seemed more like science fiction than a fact of life. And yet, today you can walk into many new homes and use your smartphone to control the temperature and the lighting, you can preheat the oven remotely, and you can get alerts to your mobile device if your smoke detector or burglar alarm goes off. It’s the type of home that technologists have dreamed of for decades.
At some point in their growth and development, most businesses regardless of industry eventually reach a point where they realize they can’t do it all themselves. Either they need help marketing their product, or some of their more tedious HR tasks could be outsourced, or their testing operations could be made more efficient by partnering with an outside agency. Some companies outgrow this stage and ultimately reclaim their ability to do things in-house, but others continue to grow with their partnerships in tact. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other—but they both present distinct pros and cons.
We talk a lot on this blog about end-to-end testing, and we don’t plan to change that fact any time soon. Why? Because end-to-end still represents the only testing methodology that puts the needs of end-users at the center of the testing process—and end-user experience is only becoming more important in the ever-changing telecom domain. So, naturally we want to give our readers the tools and information they need to outline end-to-end tests within their networks in order to maintain a high quality of service. That’s why today we’re taking a deeper look at some specific instances of end-to-end testing, in order to provide a more concrete idea of what this methodology looks like in practice.
Let’s imagine that you’re a trendy new startup. You’ve got a new widget that lots of people are downloading that helps that track their runs, or manage their time more effectively, or connect with other members of their community. Sure, there are the usual set of information security concerns, and you have plenty of functionality to build out over time, but the occasional bug or service outage isn’t going to be the end of the world. While high quality testing is still mission critical, it might not feel like a life and death situation.
When technology changes and evolves—as it does almost constantly—in the telecom domain, it typically takes standard-setting bodies like 3GPP six months to a year to establish a new set of test cases for conformance testers. Once those test cases come out, there’s a flurry of activity while operators, device manufacturers, OEMs, and others attempt to verify compliance and interoperability with new and existing standards. The fact that it takes 3GPP a fairly long stretch of time does very little to lessen the time pressure that testers usually face when it comes to performing each new round of service verification.
The modern cycle of updates for telecom networks continues to speed up, and telco operators need to do the same in order to keep pace with the market. For some of you, this may be leading you to consider test automation for verifying service on your network. Sure, there’s plenty of content out there about automated testing, and some of if even pertains to the specific challenges that your company has—but it’s still more than a little bit daunting. You know you need a framework that can automatically test, for instance, audio quality for VoLTE service across a suite of modern and legacy devices, but how do you get started?
We’ve talked a little bit already at this blog about how automated testing is becoming a virtual necessity for telco operators. As increasing device fragmentation and the proliferation of different protocols continue to inflate the number of use cases that require testing, human testers are struggling to keep up. But, if you’re reading this, you probably know all that. More than that, you’re probably almost ready to take the plunge and seriously consider an automated testing solution for your business. The question at this point is, how do you choose the right tool?
The most obvious benefits of automation for any industry include increased efficiency and decreased reliance on human employees. But for telcos, automation, and particularly automated testing, offers multiple other sources of ROI, from reduced time to market, to better implementation of the Continuous Delivery model.
Okay, you’ve decided to take the plunge. You know that in order to keep pace with all of the new devices, network protocols, and use cases emerging every day in the telecom domain, you need to do something about your testing framework. Your internal engineers can’t manually test all the required use cases anymore, and service verification is only going to get more complex as technologies like 5G enter the scene. You’ve even done your research via Google and your professional network to see who the worthwhile vendors might be for a telecom testing solution. Now you get to the hard part: how do you choose between them?