Back in 2017, the UK launched its 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, the stated aim of which was to support coordinated research into 5G technology and use cases among British telecom businesses, equipment manufacturers, and scientists. By their account, the creation of these 5G testbeds provides a crucial proving ground for technology that’s still taking shape, and whose full uses haven’t come close to being explored yet. The UK envisions a world in which 5G powers increased connectivity in rural areas, on roads, and along rail lines, as well as smart tourism and smart cities and towns, but they won’t know whether these goals are realistic until they’ve had the chance to test things out in a safe environment.
If there’s one thing your customers are certainly paying attention to, it’s their bills at the end of the month. We’ve all read about customers who have accidentally been charged enormous sums above and beyond the correct amount, and we’ve all no doubt recoiled in horror at the PR snafus that inevitably result for the telco operator in question. Needless to say, any steps that a business can take to avoid this kind of error are worth their weight in image consultations and damage control.
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 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.
Let’s say you’re a telco operator pushing out a change to your billing platform. For many in the business world, the hope for a project like this is that the team behind it has a certain level of agility, meaning that they’re a cross-functional group that’s empowered to solve problems in a flexible manner within the company’s larger mission. Unfortunately, agility usually isn’t what we find in cases like these. Instead, we find “waterfall” projects where teams are constantly waiting for approval, wading through red tape, and carrying out pre-agreed plans even as potential challenges and hurdles come to light.
Okay, let’s say you're one of the major telco operators in your geographic area, and in order to increase your competitiveness you’re hoping to be the first one to roll out a 5G network for mobile voice and data. You’ve spent months laying the groundwork and taking pains to get your equipment and protocols in line with the new standards, and you’ve done your market research to determine the level of demand among local users (including adoption of 5G-enabled devices, etc.). It’s “all steam ahead,” and the only question is how quickly you’ll be able to get your product to market.