5G New Radio (NR) Tested For Cellular Coverage By Drones

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Accuracy counts in field testing the coverage of 5G, so does accessibility and performance. A project team based in Finland and led by Ericsson’s 5G Readiness Program came up with a new testing system for cellular mobile network coverage…that flies. The new system uses mobile network testing scanners and smartphones from Rohde & Schwarz mounted on a drone. They can be programmed to execute automatic tests with considerable flexibility for precise route selection and drone speed control. This solution is especially valuable for industrial use cases. It also has advantages over traditional walk and drive tests by providing unprecedented repeatability and positional accuracy, with the ability to verify beamforming and map coverage in 3D.

The R&S TSMA6 network scanner is mounted on a drone and is able to simultaneously verify important LTE and 5G NR coverage metrics such as reference signal received power (RSRP) and signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio (SINR) in accordance with 3GPP standards. When combined with the R&S QualiPoc Android smartphone-based optimizer, IP trace, application QoS metrics such as serving cell parameters are possible. The solution currently uses LTE user equipment (UE) but will soon be further developed to include 5G UEs such as the Samsung S10 5G.

The drone can be programmed to follow an exact three-dimensional route. The over 20 successful measurement flights conducted so far have shown the solution procedure and results to be extremely repeatable. The drone flights were of various duration, altitudes and routes, depending on the test case. Control, authentication and air traffic control are considerable challenges to the development of robust drone-based solutions. In this new system they are conducted over cellular networks, eliminating the requirement for line-of-sight connection between the drone and its pilot.

The project is a collaboration between Ericsson, Rohde & Schwarz, Tampere University and Centria University of Applied Sciences and forms part of the Business Finland 5G FORCE program.

Richard Wirén, 5G Readiness Program RAN Technical Lead from Ericsson, says, “For 5G to realize its promise, field verification of operation and quality is essential, and this development is a pioneering way to ensure our customers receive the network performance they require. We are delighted to utilize test solutions from Rohde & Schwarz that have proven themselves very reliable and are excited that we now have access to solutions based on commercially available 5G NR UEs such as the Samsung S10 5G.”

Vice President of mobile network testing Rohde & Schwarz, Hanspeter Bobst, says, “We are delighted to combine our industry-leading mobile network testing know-how with Ericsson’s long tradition of network innovations to ensure the delivery of end-user Quality of Experience as 5G NR becomes a reality.”

September 24, 2019

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