The Testing Show: The Future of Telecom Testing With Jason McIvor
In this episode of The Testing Show, we welcome Jason McIvor to talk about the upcoming changes in the Telecom world. Specifically, we look at the rollout of the 5G standard and what it will mean to consumers both in speed as well as the level of ubiquity.
Jason discusses new uses for Telecom beyond the consumer space and the introduction of autonomous vehicles and Augmented Reality for both consumer purposes (games, certainly) as well as more unique angles (real time blueprints of buildings and electrical gas lines for firefighters).
In addition, Jason shares with Matt and Michael his view of the changing marketplace for testing in the telecom sphere and how people who are interested can get involved.
- CES 2018: 5G News and Nuggets
- CES 2018: What Happens to Your Phone Will Be the Least Interesting Thing About 5G
- Pokémon Go changes everything (and nothing) for AR/VR
- The race to 5G: Inside the fight for the future of mobile as we know it:
- The Internet of Things and Software Testing
MICHAEL LARSEN: Hello and welcome to the Testing Show, Episode… 54.
[Begin Intro Music]
This show is sponsored by Qualitest. QualiTest Software Testing and Business Assurance solutions offer an alternative by leveraging deep technology, business and industry-specific understanding to deliver solutions that align with client’s business context. Clients also comment that QualiTest’s solutions have increased their trust in the software they release. Please visit QualiTestGroup.com to test beyond the obvious!
MICHAEL LARSEN: Hello, and welcome to the show. Glad you could join us for the month of March. I am Michael Larsen, the show producer, and we are joined by our moderator, Matthew Heusser?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Good time zone.
MICHAEL LARSEN: We would like to welcome our special guest, Jason McIvor. Welcome, Jason.
JASON MCIVOR: Hey, folks. How are you doing?
MICHAEL LARSEN: Thank you. We are doing well. Matt, let’s go ahead and get this show going.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Well, thanks Michael. The first thing we usually start off with is News, and Jason is an expert at implementing Telecom. The hot new thing in Telecom is 5G Networks. We’ve got this piece that basically starts talking about the roll-out plan for 5G Networks saying, “You could have them in the US as early as 2018.” So I guess the first question to Jason is, “Is it really going to be that fast?” Then, “What the heck does that mean?”
JASON MCIVOR: Yeah. So, it’s certainly looks like it may well be that fast here in Europe and (I’ve heard recently) in the US. We already have some (let me call them) “laboratory trials” of 5G. So, in the UK in particular, where we have one of our biggest Telecom providers/our Telecom clients, there are a number of different operators that have actually partnered with universities, because I think the key thing for most people (maybe don’t understand) is that we’re still defining what we call the “Standards for 5G.” The whole world in the sort of 5G Standards area. We’re still defining exactly how it’s going to work. So, let’s imagine they’re 90 percent complete. What they have to do is finish off that 8 percent, and that 8 percent will be the pièce de résistance (let’s say), [LAUGHTER], for 5G. Once that is in place, we will understand the Hardware protocols, capabilities, fundamentals for the consumer, and the speeds, because those are the big things. Then operators themselves will be able to adapt their offerings to these incredible levels of downloads. It certainly looks as though we might have, certainly in UK and Europe, small trials before the end of 2018. I’d be surprised to see a full launch, but a lot of our operators are quite bullish about how quickly they can roll this out once the Standards are agreed.
MICHAEL LARSEN: So, this has always been something I’ve been curious about. I worked for Cisco Systems in the 1990s. We worked peripherally with a lot of the Telecom stuff back then. From my memory, being able to go a generation to a generation of rollout in a Telecom space used to be just arduous, and yet I’m seeing that the idea of switching to 5G is going to be very quick. I get the idea that we get faster and faster each time but what’s helping make the switch over to 5G supposedly be so much faster?
JASON MCIVOR: Very interesting question. One answer to that is that it seems like the technology itself, i.e. the hardware that connects your phone to the Telecom Network, it’s not changing a lot. What’s actually going to be changing is the backbone. It’s the way that they transport all of that data in the background. If you look at Broadband, your Optical Fiber, etcetera, generally speaking, it all goes in underneath the ground, etcetera. So, once we make the connection to the hardware from the phone, everything else goes into IP (Internet Protocol) and then has to hit what we call the “backbone.” The actually, physical change between the phone and the mast for 5G might not be incredibly difficult to do. We’ve done it a number of times now, like you said, we’re pretty used to 2G to 3G to 4G. So, we know there’s going to be some level of hardware change on the mast, and we can put that in. What might be a little bit slower is upgrading the backbone to take all of that data later on.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So, what you’re saying is we’re going to go to every cell tower that we have listed (if we’re AT&T or Verizon or whoever we are) and we’re going to have to change the boxes out?
JASON MCIVOR: Yes.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: You said yourself, “We don’t what the Standard is yet,” but 5G is going to be 2 things, incredibly faster. Give us an idea of how much faster, 10 times faster/10 times more bandwidth?
JASON MCIVOR: Oh, yeah. At least 10 times faster than anything that you get at the minute.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Also lowered latency, right? You’re going to get [FINGER SNAPS] faster response when you do query something?
JASON MCIVOR: Yeah, that certainly is the promise. It will effectively have like an always-on button, so your initial connection will be so much quicker than what we currently feel.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Even the article that we linked to said that, “It’s getting like pixels are, where the resolution is better than the human eye can see.”
JASON MCIVOR: [LAUGHTER].
MATTHEW HEUSSER: The speed is going to be/the latency is going be, you won’t be able to tell the difference between. You know, when we teach performance testing classes, we say, “When you’re down to under a quarter of a second, the human eye can’t tell the difference of the delay between a quarter second than a tenth of a second.” So, there’s no qualitative difference to the person experiencing it. What kind of applications is that going to enable?
JASON MCIVOR: When you’re looking at something, effectively, omnipresent, [LAUGHTER], and ubiquitous levels of 100-meg pipeline between your mobile device or any mobile device that’s not restricted specifically to mobile phones, because effectively anything that you can put a SIM in from here on in will become a highly-connected mobile device. One of the more interesting applications (or two of them actually) is bringing virtual reality to day‑to‑day living because you’re bandwidths will be so incredibly large, but also augmented reality. The augmented reality is really interesting to me in particular because you can use it for games. Obviously, Pokémon—when was that, 1-1/2 or 2 years ago?—made a huge splash. But, could you imagine if you had a fire fighter going into a burning building and you could real‑time stream the schematics of the building that they were firefighting in, how much more safe would those firefighters be and hopefully how much more safe would the people who maybe were caught up in it be? You just start to think about the numbers of different usages in real time, massive amounts data, and augmented-reality situation. It’s superb, and that’s not even really touching on the Internet of Things.
MICHAEL LARSEN: Yeah. It seems also (just pointing through this) if we want to see the arrival of self-driving cars, the 5G Network is going to be critical, if even that’s going to be able to handle the data necessary for that to become a reality.
JASON MCIVOR: Absolutely. Right. You’re now almost edging into the Internet of Things where we’re getting real-time traffic management. Changing of traffic lights based on volume of traffic, not the fact that there’s a timing sequence there. Automated cars is one thing, but automated Lorries, automated trucks, and delivery trucks (like Target and those types of big‑huge department stores). Lorry-less electrical trucks, driving themselves using real‑time data over a 5G Network is pretty incredible. It’s going to save a lot of people a lot of money, but it’s also going to cost a lot of people a lot of jobs. We’re a resilient world, so we’ll figure out other jobs. [LAUGHTER].
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Let’s talk about the opportunity for testers then, and this is one that I personally am, “We’re going to have to write a lot of software, and there’s going to be a lot of the next rung in the process. I create the tooling to check that software does all the things.” I’m really personally less interested in that than the risk management piece around all this work. What are the risks of flipping from 4G to 5G? How do you performance test the bandwidth requirements when all of a sudden everybody can download a whole lot. I know Netflix, for instant, just on-demand streaming video has something like 60 percent of the downloads on the backbone today are Netflix. How do we roll that out so that it’s not going to be saturated, the interacting of The Internet of Things on this, or the interacting of the cars? It seems like there’s going to be a lot of testing that needs to be done that is much more higher‑ordered symbolic‑logic systems‑thinking, put all the pieces together, and see how they play with each other. Is that going to happen, and how could a tester get into that?
JASON MCIVOR: Wow. You bring up a lot of terminology there and quite rightly. It’s going to be a big change from a download capability. It’s a big change, again, from a backbone-infrastructure capability, but actually, for the sort of seasoned Telecom tester it isn’t that big a change directly. So, if you look at it, we’ve got mobile devices, we’ve been testing on device testing of locations, download speeds, even right down to operating systems. So, here in the UK, we do, you know, months ahead of the latest iPhone or Android releases software testing. That’s the mobile device itself, and we’re relatively familiar with that. What we will see in probably early 2019 or the very late stages of 2018 is some new mobile devices, but all they’ll really be is quicker, which has been happening for quite some time. Our current sets of testing techniques will just need to be stepped forward. Let’s use more artificial intelligence. For instance, we can automate more of the testing from the device to the hardware infrastructure, the sort of core network parts. So, that piece will be similar. The actual masts themselves, i.e. the 5G receivers that speak directly to your phones (your mobile device), that’s going to be relatively familiar. Obviously, the new Standards. The speeds. They’re all an upgrade on everything that we currently test, but we do test these things every single day. There’s ongoing switch upgrades and run upgrades going on every day across Europe and America. When we get into the background of how the Telecom Network works, that’s where it’s going to get really interesting. How do we bill for this? What is it that we’re going to change from a customer relationship and a customer relationship management perspective? How do we grab hold of this technology and make it easier for the consumer to understand it? That’s where, from a testing point, we may have to adapt a little bit more, might have to mature, might have to get more innovative, might have to be able to do it a little bit quicker as well. So, again, emergence of Artificial Intelligence in the backbone of Test in this new network, but where we will really innovate is when it comes to the usages of technology that are brand new due to the size of the pipe that we now get through the mobile device. Things like the Internet of Things or machine-to-machine communication, business-to-business communication. The street lights changing based on volume of traffic and the fact that both your car and your phone will be able to talk in real time to the street lights seems credible. “How do we test that? How do we make sure that that’s faultless?” Those are places we’re going to have to innovate and nobody has really gone. Other than maybe Electronic Arts or one of the other big games manufacturers, no one has really gone into the realms of, “How do we test augmented reality? How do we make sure it works? That it can’t be hacked, that’s it secure? That it’s performant? That every time you turn your phone on, it’s there for you and especially if you do go into a situation like emergency services, that it won’t break down, if you’re in a fire fight. I mean, actual fire. [LAUGHTER]. It’s a very exciting time.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Let me ask a couple of follow ups then, if it’s all right? You mentioned “switch upgrades,” I don’t know if those are going to be testing jobs or if that’s just something Ops does. You probably have more insight into that than I do. For instance, I have a Skype subscription and I can dial out like a phone, and there’s a bunch of things I have to click every time that are like, “This is not a real phone. You can’t press 911. If you dial 911, it won’t know where you are. You can’t use this for real-time life-critical applications, because it could fall over,” and we’ve been saying that ever since Java came out. Really, when Java came out, we started saying, “Oh, well. It’s not really. This is just a toy. Don’t use it for life.” What I’m hearing is that these are going to be mission and life critical situations, the Standard for Performance. I don’t know that the principals involved really understand what they’re committing themselves do. The third piece of that, as you’ve alluded to, we don’t even know what the thing is. So, how are we going to figure out how to test the Billing System? We haven’t even figured out how to bill for it yet, and I think that’s an opportunity for good testers to get in and define reality, to drive change, to say, “It could do this. Then, if it does, I can test to make sure that it does.” I think that’s an incredibly powerful leadership position that we don’t take enough.
JASON MCIVOR: I wouldn’t disagree with that. We have been trained. We are more successful at coming into the dawn of 5G than maybe we’ve been with 4G, but certainly a lot more successful than we were when 3G turned up. We have very strong partnerships with all the hardware manufacturers (whether it’s Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, or whoever it is) and are working very closely with them to understand what hardware is going to look like when it comes to 5G. We also have people who are very close to the Standards. In effect, we have people who day-to-day are working with and understanding all the changes in the 5G Standards. So, we’re slightly more ahead of the game than we were with 4G. The relationships with the hardware partners so we know what’s coming up before it actually happens, the relationship with the Standard Committees so we know what the functionality is going to look like before it actually gets used in anger. That puts us ahead of the game in this area.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So you’re saying, if I hear you right, you’ve got this trifecta. You have the manufacturers who make the physical machines, the hardware that’s going to switch, that’s going to take from the backbone or from a fiber-optic cable and convert it into something that could be wirelessly received. You’ve got the manufacturer of the physical phone that has to then be able to receive and process that and watch silly cat videos or whatever they’re going to do with that, or for that matter, those autonomous trucks. Then, you have the backbone people and whoever is creating applications, the software that’s going to run this. But that’s four different parties, and there’s a lot of room (I think), “Oh, you meant yards. We thought you meant meters” kind of errors that have been made in the past when you give different teams a spec and they misinterpret it and then they communicate. You’re saying one of the opportunities here for testers to get ahead of the ball is to kind of be the systems integrator so we’re testing both sides of it, and then we’re testing both sides of it, and then we can help figure out how things work. So we’re systems integrator, we’re the liaison, we are the definers of the explanation of the Standard. There’s just a lot there to lead the implementation. Instead of, “Yeah. I checked the checkbox and clicked the save button and came back with a checkbox check.”
JASON MCIVOR: Absolutely. When we generally think about software testing or hardware testing it is similar to how you just described it, “I’ve checked the box. It performs according to requirements.” Going forward for the whole of the software testing world, we need to move away from the idea that test execution is the be-all and end-all. We’re moving up what I call the hierarchy from test execution and specialism and testing things to a spec level. So, we’re taking a much wider view of all the pieces that contribute to what we’re test executing. We’re moving to business assurance, and that’s where I believe that you’re trying to describe the fact that we sit in a wonderful position, being able to arbitrate between multiple, sometimes competing forces/sometimes supporting forces, whether it’s mobile device manufacturers, hardware manufacturers, backbone infrastructure delivery people, and the software that runs all of the above, the ultimate goal of business assurance is obviously first to market and absolutely right first time. Because we will have the connections, the capability, and the understanding to be able to guide businesses through the delivery of 5G and the obstacles around it.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So, this is great. Now Jason, you are Head of Delivery for QualiTest UK, if not just Head of QualiTest UK?
JASON MCIVOR: Yes. I have a grandiose SVP title. [LAUGHTER].
MATTHEW HEUSSER: That’s right. Well, Michael and I are not QualiTest employees. You sponsor it so we can afford to run it and take our time to do it. The next question I want to ask: How to get involved? Obviously, one answer, that might be realistic, would be moved to the UK and look up Jason on the Internet.
JASON MCIVOR: [LAUGHTER].
MATTHEW HEUSSER: But say, they’re in the United States, how would someone get involved if they say, “I want to make a conscious shift. I think autonomous vehicles are going to be the future. To do that, it’s going to be 5G Networks. I want to make a conscious shift in the direction of Telecom with my career because I think there’s going to be opportunities there and I want to get in early and lead.” How would you even do it?
JASON MCIVOR: If anybody in the US wants to get involved specifically in Telco, specifically in 5G, specifically in all the cool applications that are going to be coming out, they very simply go onto the QualiTest Website. They apply for a job. If they have that level of wanton need, there’s nothing to stop us bringing them to the UK and there’s nothing to stop us bringing our experts to the US and teaching classes [unintelligible]. We also have our Knowledge and Innovation Function and the Knowledge and Innovation Function from a Telco perspective, which, as we move forward, I will become more responsible for personally. Currently, we have a number of interesting articles and almost White-Paper type principles for anybody to learn from about where we are with 5G, where we’re going after 5G. I’d just encourage everybody just go to https://www.qualitestgroup.com/, have a look, and apply for jobs. That’s point number one.
MICHAEL LARSEN: I was thinking of it from just, “Oh, hey, 5G. That means that we’re going to be looking at this from—” Again, maybe just my own myopic standard was, “How are apps going to deal with this? How are individuals going to deal with this?” As the discussion has gone into, it’s probably the fact that the first implementations of 5G aren’t even really going to be all that relevant to us consumers. In other words, me holding onto an iPhone, for example, and seeing some radical new development in 5G, I’m guessing I’m not going to be seeing that in the next year. That’s probably going to be more for the infrastructure and higher levels, but I would guess that we would be seeing more of that in the next couple of years. If the past is any indication, the adoption rate will be much faster. For me personally, I guess I would just start looking at small companies, looking to leverage using these kind of technologies, seeing how I could get involved. Does that sound like pipe dream, Jason, [LAUGHTER], or am I on the mark?
JASON MCIVOR: No, not at all.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: How would you find the companies, Michael?
MICHAEL LARSEN: The same way that I always do, I guess. I would have to just kind of put my ear to the ground and see who is already working in the industry that I know, who’s already working with Telecom, who’s already working with 4G, and get a feeling for what they know about what’s happening and find out what the barriers to entry are. There may very well be. Well, I said that I worked for Cisco Systems. Honestly, I’ve been out of that loop for 15 years. More than 15, excuse me. Wow. So I would not necessarily say, “Hey. I’m an old‑-hand Cisco expert. Let’s go talk about what I can do”. There certainly would be a level of learning I would have to do to be relevant and current, but I would hope also that with a lot of what I’ve been able to work with over the past 15 years, I’d be able to leverage a fair enough.
JASON MCIVOR: Here, in the UK, we have been able to bring (I think it’s about) 19 graduates, and these are people who have left school in the UK. They don’t necessarily have computer science degrees, but they’re interested in IT as a fundamental, and they are now all working for one of the largest Telco providers in the UK. That has been a three‑month training capability where we’ve taken people with zero Telco capability or understanding or experience other than their mobile phones or their PlayStation or whatever it is, and they are now all working in Telecom. They’re all working on 4G technology with a view to transitioning across to 5G. So, we could help anybody take maybe some old knowledge or some relatively-new knowledge, graduates just coming out of college and those types of things, and we have them trained and they’re all working for (like I said) one of the UK’s largest Telco’s.
MICHAEL LARSEN: All right. That sounds interesting. Again, I’m curious to see how this shapes up. Who knows? We might be looking at a very big paradigm shift, not just the stuff that’s testing, but the way it’s delivered. I personally find it very interesting. The idea that the speeds will be so overwhelming different that the idea of a local device, like a smartphone, won’t even need to have that much storage on it, because most of the processing and most of the actual work will be just done up in the Cloud.
JASON MCIVOR: Yeah.
MICHAEL LARSEN: Having to have a phone with multiple gigs of storage on it will just be irrelevant. [LAUGHTER].
JASON MCIVOR: Yeah.
MICHAEL LARSEN: Fumbling with how to say that, [LAUGHTER], because I’m mentally trying to process that.
JASON MCIVOR: Oh, no.
MICHAEL LARSEN: I’m thinking, “That’s really neat.” [LAUGHTER].
JASON MCIVOR: [LAUGHTER]. Yeah. You’re absolutely right though. Whenever we have transmission speeds as quick as this, there will literally be no need for on‑device storage. All your information will be transformed, dealt with in the Cloud, super‑fast downloads to your handset in 4K levels of data quality, and just appear there like magic. [LAUGHTER]. It also gives anybody (the Googles or the Apples or whoever else in the world) the ability for them, whether you like it or not, to effectively own all of your information. They’ll take care of it. They’ll make sure it’s secure, hopefully, on those bits and pieces. So, if you lose your mobile phone in the minute or your passwords are on there. Who knows? There might be some pictures of the family, etcetera. Even nowadays, even on the most advanced phones, a lot of people have local storage. Going forward, you won’t need that much of local storage. We should see smaller local storage devices, much more being sent to the Cloud, stored in the Cloud where it’s much more resilient and secure, and again, from a testing point of view, that whole cyber-security piece is something else that we can support any future 5G operator. We can help them with cyber security, both at the mobile device all the way through to, whether it’s the Cloud or a Core Network.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So, there’s an interesting point there. When Apple came out with the iPod, the laptop or the desktop, if you still had one, was supposed to be the digital hub. You would take all your songs, you would rip them off your CDs, you would put them on your laptop, and then from your laptop you could put them on your iPod. At some point, Apple said, “No. We think you’ve got enough bandwidth. We think it’s fast enough. We’re going to put your songs in the Cloud, and they’re not even going to be on your phone.” There was a huge uproar. It’s really interesting to me, because when Microsoft tried to do this with Operating Systems and they said, “You’re not going to buy XP or 2000, you’re just going to rent it from us. You’re going to get a subscription fee, and we’ll automatically upgrade.” The pushback was so hard, they gave up. Apple got pushback. But, all of the sudden, I just upgrade my phone and upgrade my laptop and all my stuff is in the Cloud. It’s disappearing. It’s not in permanent storage anymore, and it’s a pain to click through the defaults to get it to actually be stored physically on my device. You’re saying that pretty much everything (your notes that you take, your e-mails), it can all be somewhere else and then retrieved so fast that you can’t tell the difference.
JASON MCIVOR: Yeah. Pretty much. It’ll be almost indistinguishable between mobile broadband versus wireless broadband or wired broadband. It’ll become that quick, and then there’s no need for you to have your own sets of discs and terabytes lying around the house with your favorite MP3 Playlist, [LAUGHTER], or whatever it is. That even sounds old nowadays, and that was still a thing about 1-1/2 years ago. Very likely that any mobile device you have will get the majority of its storage from the Cloud, whichever Cloud provider you decide to use, and it will be so instantaneously available to you that you won’t have the headaches that we currently have with slow. If you’re trying to load a 4K video up into the Cloud, it can often be extremely slow, but 5G promises to get rid of most of that. So, it’ll become much easier to have all your information available at all times on your mobile device.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Well, that’s quite a bit. So, you’ve already mentioned the QualiTest Website for more information about exactly what the Standards are, how to get involved, how to understand how things are going to work, and please e-mail us a couple of links and we’ll put those in the Show Notes when the show goes live.
JASON MCIVOR: Of course.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: All right. Well thanks for the time, Jason. It’s been a lot of fun. We look forward to hearing more and seeing what you’re doing (maybe) in 1 year of so as these networks start to actually roll out all over the world.
JASON MCIVOR: Yeah. Brilliant. Okay. Thanks a million, fellows.
MICHAEL LARSEN: All right. Thanks for joining us.
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