Telecom Domain Testing: Protocol Testing and Telecom Testing Tools

Basic knowledge of Telecom Domain for Testers: Learn Telecom Testing (Protocol Testing) with the best Telecom Testing Tools 

Before moving deeply into Telecommunication (Telecom) domain, let us first understand what a Domain is and why Domain Knowledge is important in the Software Industry?

In those days, testing done was only specific to an application and there was no much involvement of domain in it. But nowadays, with the advancement in technology, demand, client expectation, etc., it is highly important to have the specific domain knowledge to test a specific application.

Telecom testing

Introduction

Domain knowledge is much essential for a tester because testers having domain knowledge can test their respective software applications better than the others who have little or no knowledge of the domain.

Domain means a specific industry like Banking, Insurance, Telecom etc. Usually while developing any project or a software, domain knowledge is critical as the entire software is dependent on the business logic for that specific industry.

Business logic is different for each industry, hence we require a domain expert who is a master of the subject and knows the in-and-out of the project.

Advantages of Having Domain Knowledge

Domain knowledge is relatively important for testing any project.

The list given below shows the various advantages involved in having domain knowledge:

#1) Reduces Training Time

If a tester has domain knowledge then only minimal training is required for them and this, in turn, will save the cost and time of the project.

#2) Productivity

Any organization having testers with domain knowledge will be productive as testers can understand any problem specific to their domain expertise very easily and provide the exact solution to the problem by reducing the analysis time.

This will increase the productivity of the project as well as the organization.

#3) Good understanding of User Interface & back-end processing

A tester with an intense knowledge of domain can suggest the user interface (UI) of an application from the end-user point of view. Also, they can identify the defects at the early stage of testing with the help of their knowledge of back-end system.

If a tester has domain knowledge then they can think out of the box and can write unique test cases which may raise valid questions on the current workflow of an application.

#4) Knowledge of Technical Terms of the domain

Usually, a developer uses technical terms during a discussion, hence domain knowledge will be helpful for a tester during such discussions. This will be an added advantage to the testing team as well.

If a tester has domain knowledge then they can review the test cases technically and suggest technical changes in the test case flow as per the business requirement.

#5) Understanding of Business Processes and Rules

Testers with domain knowledge can participate in discussion with the business team and development team. Their knowledge will play a vital role while representing an organization in front of the client. Such testers having a detailed knowledge of the domain processes and rules can easily spot issues in the requirement document.

#6) An Asset to the Organization

Testers with domain knowledge can play the role of a trainer to the new joiners in the organization. This again saves costs for project and organization which otherwise may require a special trainer for coaching.

Overview of Telecom Domain

Telecom industry is becoming a top performing industry in the last few years.

This industry has a unique set of challenges from the technology front and the customer demands due to its wide range of sectors. Telecom industry consists of a set of sectors like wireless communication, satellite communication, Internet Service Provider etc.

Telecom industry builds, maintains and operates telecommunication network and thereby makes communication possible globally through internet or phone for a human being and this service plays a vital role in anyone’s life.

Business Processes in Telecom Industry

A good understanding of the business processes in a must for testing a telecom project. This will help to test an end to end telecom application.

Telecom services are based on the below two systems:

#1) Operations Support Systems (OSS):

OSS supports back-office activities like telecom network, provisioning, maintaining customer service, Inventory etc. Sometimes it also called as Operational Support Systems.

#2) Business Support Systems (BSS):

BSS deals with Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) and processes such as generating invoices, IVR’s Call Centers, taking orders, processing bills, collecting payments, etc. Basically, customer-facing activities are involved in Business Support Systems.

OSS and BSS are related to each other and that is explained clearly in the below diagram:

OSS and BSS

BSS and OSS are separated as shown in above diagram in which passing the customer data or request from the BSS to OSS and provides the required set-up, later activation is done by the OSS and again details are passed on to the customer-facing application from the BSS.

Understanding the following business processes in the Telecom industry is essential while testing any telecom application:

#1) In the Telecom Industry, it’s the provider who wants to increase his customers and for that purpose, the Telecom Service Provider (TSP) approaches to the customers to provide a new service and checks if the customer is really interested in his service.

#2) If a customer feels that the service is good and wants to go with a specific service then the customer generates an inquiry. Here, basically, the customer is more interested in the quotation of the service or plan.

#3) Once the customer is satisfied with the initial details and quotes provided by the service provider then the customer orders a service to the TSP.

#4) Now its the service provider’s responsibility for technical evaluation as if the service can be provided in that area or not, all requirements of a customer can be fulfilled or not etc. After the successful evolution, TSP actually starts working on the execution of the service request to the customer.

#5) TSP always tracks the order status, due to any reason if the order implementation stops then the TSP takes priority to resolve the issue and continues to give service to the customer. After all, in today’s world, customer satisfaction holds the key to success.

#6) After successful implementation, client or customer starts using the services and of course, billing also starts from the service provider’s end. The billing will be generated as per the quotation provided earlier to the customer.

#7) For any technical problems, service assurance team will always be available to support the customer service.

Telecom business process stated above is explained in detail using the below diagram:

(Note: Click on the below image for an enlarged view)

Customer service representative

[image source]

Protocol Testing

In telecommunication, protocol means a set of rules which need to be followed when two connections communicate with each other and these protocols exist at different levels.

In the Telecom industry, Protocols are classified into two categories as shown below:

#1) Routed Protocols:

In the Telecom industry, the user sends data from one network to another and this data contains files, e-mails etc. Using this Routed protocols, the user can send such data to a different network at a different location.

#2) Routing Protocols:

Different types of data can be transferred using Routers. Routing protocols are used to decide the route of the routers and are used between the routers only.

Types of Protocols

Given below are the various types of Protocols:

#1) Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet protocol (TCP/IP):

This protocol is used to send information through the internet using packets.

#2) File Transfer Protocol (FTP):

It is used to transfer a file from one network to another network.

#3) Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP):

During e-mail communication, this type of protocol is used to send & receive emails.

#4) Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP):

It is used to transfer HTML pages in an encrypted form.

#5) Layer 2 Protocol:

It is a Data Link Layer protocol. E.g. Ethernet, Token Ring.

#6) Layer 3 Protocol:

It is a Network Layer Protocol. E.g. Internet Protocol.

Protocol Testing Process

  • Protocol Analyzer and Simulator are required for protocol testing. Here, analyzers and simulators are required for testing the Switching application.
  • Protocol Analyzer checks the decoding of calls & Session Analysis and the Simulator simulates different elements of the networking system.
  • Protocol Testing is carried out by the Device Under Test (DUT) to other devices like switches, routers and configuring protocol in it.
  • In protocol testing, we check whether we get the packet X and when we expect it is called “Correctness”. We also check the “Latency time” i.e. how much time a packet takes for transit. “Bandwidth” is checked by using how many packets can be sent per second.

The use case diagram given below will help you to understand the Protocol Testing process:

Protocol Testing process

Sample Test Case for Protocol Testing

Step NoStep descriptionExpected Result
Step 1Start the communication processCommunication should be established successfully
Step 2On the command prompt, enter the command as ‘Ping-w’“Transmit successful” message should be displayed
Step 3To count the echo request, provide command as ‘Ping-n’System should start pining and a message should be displayed as “Transmit successfully”

There are different activities that are to be performed while providing service to the customers in the telecom industry.

The below details will show which department is responsible for which activities:

Telecom DepartmentActivities associated with the department
Pre-salesIt takes care of all the sales related activities like advertisements, different kind of services, discounts applicable for each service, promos etc
OrderingThis department deals with of any order such as an order for a new connection or discontinuing of existing connection
ProvisioningWhen Telecom Service Provider (TSP) approaches to the customer for any new service and customer placed a request to start the service then “Provisioning” department actually provides required connection to the customer
BillingWhen an order has been completed successfully by ordering and provisioning team and the customer starts using the actual service then billing also starts. In this department, all activities related to the billing take place
Service AssuranceWhile using service if the customer has any technical problem then this department comes into the picture. There is always team available for issue resolution for the customer. In case of any technical failure, this team resolves the problem
Inventory SystemInventory system keeps all data like from customer inquiry, order placed successful implementation of the order, customer satisfaction history, customer’s issues, resolution of issues etc. This system acts as a storehouse of all information

Testing Types Performed on Telecom Software or Project

The types of testing that are given below are performed on a Telecom software.

#1) Conformance Testing:

Conformance testing is a formal way for testing standards. Telecom testing is spread across various network elements, protocols, and devices developed by different organizations. These elements often refer each other and nowadays it is important to ensure if the relevant data standards between two network systems are maintained.

In Conformance testing, the following testing is performed:

  • Electrical interface compatibility
  • Conformance of transport layer
  • Conformance of protocols

#2) IVR Testing:

An IVR is “Interactive Voice Response” system which is the most important one in telecom testing. IVR consists of different menus and each menu has different choices. This type of testing is usually carried out over the phone. The user has to dial the specific customer care number and the call will get transferred to the customer care agent based on the choice selected by the user.

This type of system requires a comprehensive testing so that the users are not confused about the options in the system and they are able to complete their transaction hassle free. IVR system can be verified using voice and DTMF (Dual-tone multi-frequency) response.

For Example, the steps mentioned below are involved to get the saving account balance of the customer:

  • The user dials IVR line and hears welcome prompt and menu option.
  • IVR prompts for verification.
  • The user enters his or her credentials using DTMF system.
  • IVR plays menu options and press 1 for account information, 2 for funds transfer.
  • User inputs 1, for his account information.
  • IVR plays press 1 for the latest balance or 2 for the last 3 transactions.
  • The user enters 1 using DTMF.
  • IVR prompts for the customers latest available balance.

Further reading => IVR Testing detailed process

#3) Interconnection Testing:

The name itself explains that testing of connection of two separate networks or their elements. The basic idea behind this type of testing is to check if the connected elements communicate with each other properly and there is no technical fault.

#4) Interoperability Testing:

Interoperability Testing means testing the devices developed by multiple manufacturers and if these devices are interacting with other software and equipment properly or not.

For Example, in interoperability testing, mobile phones are tested against the requirement of different networks and they should work properly. Also, different mobile networks must work properly with different mobile phones. This type of testing can reveal the problems which conformance testing could not be able to identify.

#5) Performance Testing:

Performance testing is the verification of a device under test which meets an acceptable level under maximum load. Performance testing allows the device to identify its capacity with maximum communication traffic.

#6) Security Testing:

Security testing is to penetrate the network and application using different tools and technology and check if the system is free from vulnerability. This is also used to test if any security breaches happened and if so then how much loss would occur for the organization or to the product.

Security testing is also used to test how good security practice is implemented for the product and how good the system is configurable.

Automation of Telecom Process

Due to the growing demand from the buyers and growing capabilities in the technological field, testing is exponential for service providers and telecommunication manufacturers. This is achieved by using automation framework for an end to end testing which will increase the profitability.

Different testing types can be automated using automation framework like device testing, network testing, system testing etc which in turn will increase the test coverage and reduce the time for execution.

The robot-based framework is used for telecom-based testing. Robot Framework is a test automation framework for acceptance testing. Robot framework is an open source software and the libraries required with Robot framework for telecom testing are also open sources.

  • An automated telecom solution provides consistent testing which can be customized based on the project requirements.
  • Usually, Telecom Service Provider (TSP) takes around 6 to 8 months to complete all the activities manually. These manual efforts introduce few error-prone results.
  • Automation in Telecom industry reduces the errors drastically and completes the entire process flow within a short period of time.
  • Automation process guarantees the correct execution of telecom process flow which gains the confidence of the customer.

Tools used during Telecom Testing Project

Given below are few tools that are used in telecom testing.

ToolUsed in / Useful for
Wireshark / EtherealIt is an open source tool. It used in Protocol testing for network troubleshooting, analysis.
NethawkIt is used for SS7 protocol testing
EtherpeekUsed for IP testing
Glomosim simulatorIt is used to simulate wireless and wired network systems
Abacus5000Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) testing
Test Mobile System (TMS)It is a basic tool to perform wireless network drive testing, analysis and monitoring
CDMA Air Interface Tester (CAIT)It is a network optimization tool used for minimize the call drop and increase the coverage
Communication Network Tester (CNT)It is used for detecting terminals quickly and rescue of multiple terminals

Note: Mentioned above are only a few tools that are used in telecom testing. There are other varieties of tools as well that are used in telecom testing but here the list is very limited and short.

Sample Test Case in Telecom testing

There are various testing types available in telecom testing as mentioned in the above section. However, in this article, we will be covering the sample test case of one of the functionality Billing System which includes various steps for testing.

There are few pre-requisites that must be completed before the start of the test like connection should already establish and the customer must have offered different services etc.

Step NoStep descriptionExpected Result
Step 1Validate that customer’s telephone number is registered under telecom operatorCustomer’s telephone number should be registered with telecom operator
Step 2Validate that the number is working and given number is of expected number of digits (usually for mobile number, the digits are of 10 digits)Telephone number should be of 10 digits and should be working
Step 3Validate that the generated bill contains all accurate details of calls with date and timeThe generated bill should contain accurate details of call with respective date and time
Step 4Validate that customer has paid all existing bills, if not then show it on the front screen as per business requirementExisting un-paid bills should be displayed on front screen
Step 5Validate that if customer already paid some excess bill then the excess amount should deduct from current bill and then display remaining bill to the customerCurrent bill displayed to the customer should deduct excess amount paid in last bill and the remaining bill should be displayed to the customer
Step 6Validate that bill is generated only for those services which are active on the customer’s numberBill should be generated for services which are activated by customer
Step 7Validate that if any of the service is stopped in-between the billing cycle then bill should be generated for that service up to active date and not for entire billing cycleBill should be generated based on the pro-rata basis
Step 8Validate that if any of the free service activated on the number then it should be excluded from the billing usagesServices which are free to the customer should be excluded from the billing

Conclusion

The telecom industry includes various fields like network, protocols, wired communication, wireless communication, broadband connection etc.

Hence in order to test such wide range of fields, one must have knowledge of the domain and different kind of tools that are being used to carry out effective and in-depth testing.

This article will give all the basic information about telecom domain to those who are a newbie to the telecom domain.

Happy Reading!!