Tips on Performance testing of cellular network

Mobile devices use for communication and applications has reached gigantic proportions. Mobile applications are also seen as one of the most crucial channels for marketing. Mobile traffic is doubling every year and users demands for better performance are increasing with it. Mobile users want fast and responsive apps! Mobile performance is one of the major problems as almost 60 percent of the time networks fail. Even after extensive testing there are major network issues like:
  • Nobody knows ahead of time what the quality of network will be. Hence, when testing cellular performance, it is very tough to repeat network conditions because of the constant change – like network speeds and reliability
  • Unlike the changes you can add to a PC, with a mobile network you can’t upgrade the bandwidth or hardware
  • Slow network speeds can slow down serial connections, TCP time-outs can occur
  • Jitter –latency variation can vary and cause disconnect.

In spite of these challenges, here are some tips when carrying out performance testing on cellular networks

  1. Use Service Virtualization to test your mobile service.
  2. Consider volatility and unstableness of different networks for instance – the 4G network as compared to 3G. When designing applications, performance variability not only for timeouts but for the overall architecture and UI features for the optimal user experience should be considered.
  3. Sending traffic over different Internet backbones and testing your app with different connection qualities and types, cellular operators and locations, is a sure test to ensure that the application performs consistently and reliably across a spectrum of infrastructures. Additionally, testing for performance by changing from an open network e.g. 3G/4G to a private network e.g. secure WiFi or LAN to check for performance is also advisable.
  4. Remember, network performance is still impacted by the application and the way it sends data over the network. The device may in itself not be important when influenced by network performance. Different apps will send different data packet structures to the server. It is essential to note that the network also treats them differently. Thus, before testing your application’s load on different networks, investigate device models as different models will send different amounts of data, even for the same application or web site accessed!
  5. Mirror your customers’ environments by testing on real devices and under real-user conditions that include a variety of scenarios like phone call interruptions, memory shortage, and switch-offs between Wi-Fi and cellular.
  6. Test in both production as well as simulated production. Make a checklist to test everything at physical/hardware and network level. This will provide fuller test coverage and the testers will be aware of how the app is launched and used.
  7. Analyze visual reports, logs, and video recording of test runs to measure and correct KPIs such as load capacity and response times. Functional testing during protocol level load testing (hybrid load) is important as it helps to measure and assess the user experience during different load profiles
  8. With so many different devices on the market, prioritizing based on what the majority of end Users are using. Test on those devices primarily, but also tests on some other versions.
  9. Remember to design the screens and workflows to not only accommodate slower network speeds, but also for different and complex mobile scenarios such as its adaptations to potential network performance issues.

To ensure robustness and functional performance in varied network conditions it is vital to include network impact testing in the overall test plan, in addition to functional, user interface, performance and regression testing, for mobile apps is also necessary. This ensures good end user experience and improves brand image ensuring high mobile application performance irrespective of the network conditions.

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