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Handsets : Time to Innovate

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Handset vendors cannot take customers for granted, as they are becoming more

and more quality conscious. Mobile handsets-be it basic or high-end

phones-require standard device testing; and phone makers need to follow best

handset testing practices. Handset device testing is very critical, but it is

reported that device manufacturers and engineering community often do not give

due importance to ensure quality of the handsets. Mobile technologies like 3G,

CDMA, and EVDO can work efficiently only when they are tested and deployed as

per the standards. Standard bodies are defining and upgrading the standards, so

that mobile phones' quality is maintained by the handset manufacturer. The best

handset makers and network operators will not only do the minimum required

tests, but also will add testing beyond these minimum standard requirements to

ensure that they can operate at a profit, while offering their subscribers the

best possible user experience.

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As the Indian telecom market has been witnessing a robust growth in the

subscriber base, handset manufacturing companies like Nokia, Motorola, and other

big players are attracted towards India, as plenty of engineering talent is

available here. With the world lapping up next generation mobile technologies

for both enterprise and entertainment purpose, advancements in GSM, EDGE, and

WCDMA technologies will continue to increase. All these developments require

advanced test and measurement solutions, and the handset makers need to utilize

these solutions to maintain the standard.

Test Dimension



There are various types of testing at different levels in a handset

manufacturing design house. Minimum performance testing, protocol and

interoperability testing, data-centric testing (throughput and data retry), and

location based services testing are some of the phases of testing to make a

final product; so as to ensure that the standards are maintained, and customer

satisfaction is given prime importance.

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The key testing is the lab based handset testing, before the handsets enter

the market. Minimum performance testing practice covers testing the basic RF

transmitter and receiver characteristics. It includes specialized testing for

devices that are capable of receiving diversity. Simon Wang, sales development

manager, wireless, APAC, Spirent Communications says, "Minimum performance

testing include tests that guarantee transmitters and receivers work in the

presence of weak signals, noise, other signals, and a phenomenon called fading

(the complex effect caused when signals dynamically reflect from nearby objects,

both moving and stationary). Receive diversity adds a second receive antenna to

the device to create a second RF path between the base station and device." He

adds, "In case of 3G/CDMA-EVDO handset testing, in addition to the minimum

performance test required by 3GPP2, operators and device manufacturers find it

advantageous to create customized testing. For example, our C2K-ATS system can

quickly create a test suite that sweeps one or more parameters, so the resulting

test report can be used to identify break-points in the device's operation.

These kinds of tests are extremely useful in comparing competing devices, or in

quantifying the effect of a modification to a device design."

Protocol and interoperability testing requires the capture, demodulation and

storage of messaging between device and network. Signaling testing should be run

with a realistic message timing, which can only be created when the network

emulation uses a real-time engine.

The data-centric testing encompasses data throughput testing and data retry

testing. The evolution of wireless data capabilities in high-end phones

facilitates some amazing applications and data based services for the end users.

When they are deployed well after going through the standard testing practices,

they can bring a lot of value to subscribers; and positive financial returns to

operators.

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Simon Wang says, "Data throughput testing can point out extreme capability

variations from one mobile device to another. Device manufacturers suffer when

subscribers compare competing devices, and identify poor-performing devices.

Even when the user experience is equivalent and all devices meet requirements,

some devices can be much more expensive for the operator to support; they use

more of the network's transmit power, data bandwidth, or both. Data retry

testing helps a network operator ensure that a single design failure will not

slow a commercial network to a crawl."

Thrust on Innovation



With the entry of smartphones built with a range of technologies and
capabilities, it becomes very essential to have innovative T&M solutions to test

each of these advanced features, before it reaches the end users. Jayanth

Ramachandran, head, business development (telecom account) and regional manager,

South India (T&M), Rohde & Schwarz says, "When it comes to innovation, it is a

continuous process of handset manufacturers and T&M solution vendors to come up

with ideas to reduce the test time in order to increase the productivity and

capacity of a production facility. The innovative test methodologies from R&S

like the R&S multi evaluation ensures a substantial reduction in the test time,

required to test and calibrate a mobile on the production floor."

Apart from basic phone testing tools, Rohde & Schwarz-understanding the

handset manufacturer's needs-has come up with a one box solution R&S CMW500 to

test all the features expected on a smartphone, which includes WLAN, GPS, WiMax,

DVB-/H, Bluetooth, FM, and so on. R&S CMW500 is its new launch, which is a

all-in-one solution catering to test everything from a basic mobile to the most

sophisticated PDA one can find in the market today.

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More than the basic phones, smartphone testing is very critical as the

features, data receiving and transferring capabilities are required to be in

sync with the customers' expectations. HS Bhaskar, country manager, Spirent

Communications says, "As smartphones are more complicated than traditional

mobile phones, data performance may be affected by many factors such as

operating system, software applications, power, etc. So the performance test is

critical to validate whether a smartphone can achieve the desired capability and

stick to the standards." One of the key players in the T&M vendor segment,

Spirent offers data performance test solution, which can evaluate the real data

throughput retry and throttling. Its comprehensive solution on data performance

test can simulate the test scenarios as in real network. It is a powerful tool

for the manufacturers of basic phones and smartphones to validate handsets as

per the standard and customer satisfaction.

Key Concerns



Though large volume manufacturing of various handset types is witnessed in

India, one of the key issues is that old T&M tools are also used for testing.

Rajesh Toshniwal, CEO, Toshniwal Enterprises Controls says that handset

manufacturing segment in India is using a lot of used T&M equipments and tools

brought in from old facilities. Many T&M vendors like Toshniwal Enterprises

Controls, Spirent Communications, Agilent Technologies, and Rohde & Schwarz are

offering the latest innovative solutions, and implementing all T&M solutions

calibration and setting up the AT for large manufacturers.

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Ramachandran of Rohde & Schwarz says, "Investments in T&M solution in India

is curbed, due to the transfer of used equipments from other countries. As

Indian market is into manufacturing of the low cost devices, the test

methodologies are adapted and optimized to yield the best with less number of

tests."

The general industry perception is that manufacturers often underestimate the

criticality of testing even for high-end phones. Educating the handset

manufacturing segment assumes importance, particularly the new players in the

manufacturing. HS Bhaskar of Spirent Communications observes, "So far, only

service providers and some smartphone companies have paid high attention to the

data performance test. But some newcomers have not yet understood the reason why

a full coverage test system-that covers RF, SC, data, LBS test-is so vital for

hand set designing and validation. So creating awareness is important to let

these handset makers know how to improve their product with the right T&M

tools."

Manufacturers can also use the automated system to do minimum performance

testing, as it offers them a great convenience, particularly in case of CDMA/EV-DO

device manufacturing, and also addresses many key concerns. Simon Wang says, "An

automated system designed to test this functionality must include network

emulation, wireless channel emulation, and RF measurement capabilities. An

example is Spirent's C2K-ATS automated testing system, which integrates

Spirent's AirAccess network emulator, SR5500 wireless channel emulator, and RF

signal switching with a measurement equipment. The Spirent system comes with a

software that can automate the entire process."

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Yet another concern for a manufacturer is addressing the challenge of a

shorter turn-around-time. With the turn-around-time (concept to design to volume

production) increasingly becoming shorter due to the market competition, new and

efficient methods of verifying the integrity and quality of the handsets and

similar products are required by all handset makers. With elements of design

regularly being developed in different places, it is important to have common

industry-standard test tools, that enable groups to share information and

resolve problems quickly. The quickening rate of technology changes means a

faster cycle time for new products entering the verification stage.

Gautam Awasthi, general manager, marketing, electronic measurement group,

Agilent Technologies, India says, "High-volume manufacturing requires

innovations from the T&M vendors, so as to lower test-costs and have policies to

increase the turn-around-time. Handset makers demand solutions that can help

them reach the market faster with a lower cost of testing, and consequently a

lower cost of production." T&M vendors are also prepared for the shorter

turn-around-time. Agilent products provide mobile phone manufacturers with

increased measurement speeds, improved accuracy, and exceptional flexibility for

testing mobile devices. Take 8960 test set for example, it offers full RF

parametric and functional test coverage for all the major cellular technologies.

The Agilent 8960 is your one-box solution for wireless device development,

manufacturing, and repair today and tomorrow.

There is an urgent need for handset manufacturers to understand the

complexity of device testing, as customers are demanding more and more in terms

of quality of experience, especially in the high-end phone market. Service

providers and mobile device makers need to make serious efforts on testing in

order to ensure their handset with advanced technologies like 3G, EVDO, etc,

functions efficiently as per the standard and customer satisfaction.

Kannan K



kannan@cybermedia.co.in

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