Extreme underground measurements on 5GTN with Keysight Technologies and Nokia

The mysterious underground maintenance tunnels of the University of Oulu gained unprecedented value as the expert team of the open 5G Test Network (5GTN) at the Centre for Wireless Communications invited specialists from Keysight Technologies – a leading innovator in electronic test and measurement equipment – and Nokia to perform underground measurements in the vast tunnel network. Surrounded by thick concrete structures, the nearly endless narrow alleys offer an attractive angle for measuring the capacity of the campus wide wireless network and specifically its IoT components.

In an early April morning, Jari Schroderus from Keysight Technologies is joined by the 5GTN specialist Ville Niemelä from CWC and network support team members Hannu Kosunen and Juha Lepistö from Nokia. Their shared objective is to explore how the NB-IoT network provided by Nokia and operated by 5GTN performs in extreme conditions and to conclude how network performance may be further enhanced onsite by adjusting its key parameters.

Hannu Kosunen, Jari Schroderus and Ville Niemelä exploring the network parameters

Hannu Kosunen, Jari Schroderus and Ville Niemelä exploring the network parameters

After a cup of strong morning coffee, the team heads underground. The ceiling is low, lights are dim and pipes of all sizes cover the walls. Sighing with approval, the experts jointly conclude that the tunnels definitely challenge the NB-IoT network performance to its utter limits.

Jari Schroderus praises with a smile, “This extreme environment is like Mount Everest for testing IoT devices, services and applications. Underground, we can verify their performance in extreme conditions and push them over the sensitivity and performance limits.” His motivation is clear. Testing in a challenging environment helps in understanding how the company’s technological solutions and tools work for customers – in this case network equipment vendors, IoT device manufacturers and network operators – and what concrete problems customers may face in the field in reality. Namely, in an IoT environment, transmitters measuring e.g. water or electricity consumption are typically installed into cellars or other technical areas with challenging radio conditions.

Jari Schroderus verifying radio conditions in an underground technical area

Jari Schroderus verifying radio conditions in an underground technical area

Speedy development of tools

One of the major strengths of Keysight Technologies is fast delivery of latest technological solutions (for e.g. NB-IoT and LTE-M1 support) including the state-of-the-art experience and service quality analysis tools. Keysight’s Nemo network RF measurement and analytics solutions supporting all the latest wireless technologies allow customers to optimize and automate their processes and wireless networks in a cost efficient manner. Unique end-to-end information flow is enabled from the collection of measurement data through to post-processing and analysis. A cloud based solution ties everything together with real-time monitoring and management of the measurement and analytics fleet of products.

Keysight’s Nemo network RF measurement and analytics solutions in use during the experiments

Keysight’s Nemo network RF measurement and analytics solutions in use during the experiments

Keysight is an active member of the 5GTN community and has helped other 5GTN partners to verify the coverage, throughput and performance of the deployed connectivity solutions.

Customised features and services

Parameters of the 5G Test Network can be adjusted and controlled on-the-fly to enable network performance modifications in response to customer-specific requests. Experts from partner companies can also be invited for further consultation as in this case, where Nokia experts support in adjusting the NB-IoT network parameters, for example different coverage levels of RF signals which effect power consumption of NB-IoT devices.

Jari Schroderus, Ville Niemelä and Juha Lepistö discussing the preliminary test results

Jari Schroderus, Ville Niemelä and Juha Lepistö discussing the preliminary test results

Jari Schroderus has recently measured various network features in the student-filled university corridors and finds the live test environment and 5GTN services indispensable for repeated measurements. “Coming to the university campus for measurements is extremely cost-efficient and productive as 5GTN SIM cards are given right away and network settings adjustments for the experiments can be made on a short notice”, Schroderus considers. “When new features are introduced or I find something extremely intriguing, I can return for further measurements even the following day without complicated arrangements”.

Benefits for everybody

Keysight Technologies has found its membership in the 5G Test Development project highly beneficial. Director Matti Passoja, Post-processing Products, describes “The coexistence of latest network technologies and open access to the network itself make 5GTN a truly valuable reference. Carrying out joint measurements and working side by side with other technology leaders provides mutual learning opportunities and possibilities to profit from the immense knowledge-base which exists in the Oulu region. Everybody benefits from the cooperation between multiple players leading to direct improvements in individual products.”   

Nokia also sees value in dealing with the ecosystem. “This kind of a living lab close to the Nokia 5G R&D is a good extension to our internal performance testing labs. It offers also a brilliant learning opportunity as we are tasting ourselves the same champagne what we are delivering to our customers”, says Hannu Kosunen from Nokia.

 

Text: Hanna Saarela and Olli Liinamaa
Photos: Henri Luoma

Last updated: 28.6.2018