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In this interview, Liang Jin, Spirent senior product manager, discusses  the latest Wireless LAN (WLAN) technology and the products Spirent provides to assist end-user adopters and test laboratories like Tolly.  Spirent, who is a Tolly lab partner enables innovations in communications technologies that connect the smarter world. Whether it is service provider networks, data centers, enterprise IT, mobile communications, connected vehicles or the Internet of Things, Spirent solutions are working behind the scenes to help the world communicate and collaborate faster, better and more securely.

Tolly: We have worked with Spirent as a lab partner for over a decade for generating traffic to conduct Layer 1 through Layer 7 performance testing. Can you shed some light on Spirent products/services for those who are not overly familiar with Spirent?

Jin: Spirent TestCenter combines powerful network emulation with application layer traffic to deliver the perfect blend of realism, scalability and performance required to test, measure, validate and deploy services for Cloud Computing and High Speed Ethernet networks.  In addition, Spirent offers an unrivalled breadth of expertise in communications test and assurance methodologies for next-generation solutions to accelerate and optimize the virtualization of data networks, new wireless technologies and the explosion in the number of connected devices. As the boundaries between virtual and physical infrastructures are blurred, it becomes more important to test and emulate real-world subscribers to help ensure Quality of Experience (QoE) is maintained to guarantee SLA’s. Spirent offers Live Network Monitoring solutions and services that provide the visibility and scalability to provision and monitor your data center and NFV next-generation networks with Spirent Lumos.  In addition, Spirent can test the impact of live migration on user experience and the effectiveness of virtual security devices with a powerful, easy-to-use testing platform called CyberFlood.

Tolly: With Spirent TestCenter being a market leader in test and measurement can you share with us more details on the WLAN Multi-Client Emulation and Testing capabilities including the recent 802.11ac Wave 2 test module?

Jin: Spirent TestCenter WLAN combines both the latest 802.11ac Wave 2 WLAN interface cards or modules and new 2.5Gbps/5Gbps Base-T Ethernet solutions with RJ-45 copper interface. These solutions are seamlessly integrated to support the highest performing and most realistic WLAN multi-client emulation for direct functionality and performance testing of Access Points (APs) available today with either desktop or portable solutions or rack mounted chassis for lab use.  More specifically, the testing solutions offered by Spirent enable testing engineers to perform a comprehensive and scalable test suite for either lab performance testing or a more formal certification testing for the AP products. Product details can be found here: https://www.spirent.com/Products/TestCenter/Platforms/Modules

Tolly: The expectations have been set high for 802.11ac Multi-User MIMO. Can you share Spirent’s view of this latest 802.11 technology development?

Jin: 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO gains a significant performance boost in the downstream transmission from an access point (AP) to device clients as compared to those of the Wave 1 with SU -MIMO feature. This means that the spectrum can be more efficiently used with multiple connected clients able to receive a transmission from an AP simultaneously.  Simply speaking, the Wave 1 supports a single user multiple input, multiple output (SU-MIMO) that sends a transmission only to a single client at any time, specifically, in the downstream direction. MU-MIMO can transmit up to 4, Wave 2 clients simultaneously in downstream so that the performance can be improved by a maximum 4 times. Although there are many off-the-shelf, Wave 2 APs available for either the enterprise or consumer markets (now labelled as MU-MIMO capable), many of the features for MU-MIMO are not yet enabled until new firmware upgrades become available from these equipment vendors. Also, the MU-MIMO interoperability amongst different vendors can also be challenge for testing and validation prospective.

Tolly: As a follow up to Wave 2, how can Spirent assist vendors and end-users alike in conducting internal testing on these new Access Points?

Jin: The relevant stakeholders who invested in IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2 products are now eager to know what exactly these Wave 2 enhancements do, and how Wave 2 performance is presented to customers.  Therefore, testing and validating Wave 2 features has become an urgent topic that challenges testing engineers who perform testing in either a lab or a field environment.  Spirent TestCenter WLAN with a full automation capability offers the testing and validation capabilities in tools, methodologies, and services, that are very useful for AP vendors, service provides, and enterprise IT offices to test their latest Wave 2 APs to meet performance requirement before, during, and post deployment.

Tolly: Looking ahead towards the development of the 802.11ax standard can you share some details with us on that IEEE standard and Spirent’s plans to evaluate these new WLAN devices?

Jin: While we see that the draft standard D1.0 of IEEE 802.11ax is being improved recently to incorporate more inputs and comments received from the review, chipset vendors are already in queue to launch their early version of 802.11ax solutions to the market.  IEEE 802.11ax being actively developed by the standard group is now more focused on individual user’s QoE and network’s QoS aspects in contrast to the previous 802.11 standards. Needless to say that QoE is more directly linked to the measures of traffic throughput than an aggregated RF connectivity.  Spirent TestCenter WLAN with 802.11ax support currently under development can be more urgently needed for the industry to validate the goal set by the IEEE 802.11ax standard group to achieve 4x the average throughput per user in high-density scenarios over 802.11ac.

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