Understanding the tools that measure Wireless WAN performance and capabilities
As 5G for business becomes more ubiquitous, speed continues to be the most notorious characterization of broadband quality and performance. Across the 5G spectrum, users experience a broad range of speeds, dependent upon which 5G spectrum layer they’re utilizing. With access to a 5G speed test, enterprise businesses can quantify current Wireless WAN (WWAN) performance and measure its improvements over time to better serve their needs.
The anatomy of a 5G speed test
A 5G speed test will typically be conducted for one of two reasons: to assess the throughput and speed of a newly installed WWAN connection, or as a diagnostic or troubleshooting tool when devices within the wide-area network are experiencing increased buffering or reduced overall performance.
Although speed tests are most often used to help users determine their download speed, the tests provide four distinct points of data:
- The maximum downlink (download) performance, which measures how fast data can be transferred to your router over the network.
- The maximum uplink (upload) performance, which measures how fast your router can upload data over the network.
- Latency (ping), which measures how long it takes for data to travel roundtrip from the 5G modem to the server.
- Jitter (packet delay), which measures the quality of connections on the network.
To conduct these measurements, client and server components on the network exchange synthetic data for approximately 30 seconds and then calculate the results. Enterprise customers using Cradlepoint's NetCloud Service featuring Cellular Intelligence have access to a speed test tool capable of exchanging data with more than 10,000 servers worldwide to provide more accurate readings. On top of that, those customers can run as many speed tests as they need to during the lifetime of their equipment, and each speed test result can be saved for future comparison and trend analysis.
Analyzing 5G speed test results
No matter how many tests are performed, the results of a speed test can vary widely due to several environmental variables. Common variables impacting the outcome of a speed test include:
- Location of the modem
- Maximum speed test capability and equipment limitations of the wireless modem in use (i.e., Cat 6, Cat 20, 5G)
- Carrier selection and available spectrum layers
- Interference or noise affecting connection quality or signal fidelity
- Additional sources of bandwidth usage
With countless configurations of these variables, it can be difficult for an IT department to pinpoint the exact cause of a speed test result that fails to meet the enterprise benchmark. However, in addition to the tried-and-true methods of rebooting, repositioning, and updating, deploying an outdoor adapter vs. relying on a router’s connection indoors may lead to improved speeds by removing structural interference from the equation.
Because one speed test is a mere moment-in-time snapshot of network performance, it’s important to run multiple tests to get a comprehensive picture of WWAN performance and understand how that performance changes when small adjustments are made based on the results.
Speed trends for all cellular networks will keep improving
While speed test performance results may be enhanced through equipment upgrades or changes to installation locations, results will also improve on their own through enhancements to the cellular network as new 5G spectrum layers are deployed across carriers.
Although low-band and subsequent 5G layers have an appreciable speed advantage over LTE, 4G and Gigabit-Class LTE will continue to carry the lion’s share of data for some time. With this in mind, carriers will continue to make LTE better in the same way a city continues to add lanes and perform routine maintenance on its roads and highways. These improvements in coverage, network performance, device availability, and software ecosystems all help to incorporate faster network speeds into the enterprise business landscape in transformative ways.