Guest post by the Global Certification Forum
The extension of mobile phone and broadband services across the globe has been built on our industry’s adoption of global standards. Verifying that new devices conform to those standards is of great importance to manufacturers and operator alike. As devices become more complex with the overlaying of new mobile technologies on legacy standards, there could be a danger that pre-launch testing becomes so cumbersome that the full economies of scale from standards can’t be realised.
That’s where GCF Certification comes into play. Developed and maintained through the collaboration of experts from manufacturers, operators and the test industry, GCF Certification has become the global baseline for assessing interoperability between mobile devices and operators’ networks and services. Certification brings economies of scale to device testing.
The availability of a choice of certified devices has helped expand the global mobile market.
Certification has played a critical role in the commercialisation of LTE. GCF’s annual review of Mobile Device Trends provides insights into the penetration of LTE in the multi-mode devices being requested by operators and end-users across markets worldwide.
If the total number of band/technology combinations are averaged across all devices, in 2014 the hypothetical “average” GCF-Certified device incorporated 3.5 GSM bands, 2.7 3G bands and 2.3 FD LTE bands.
When LTE-capable devices are analysed separately, the trend towards more highly integrated multi-mode, multi-band LTE devices was even more apparent. The average number of LTE bands per certified device rose to 4.4, up from 3.1 in 2013 and 1.9 in 2012.
The proportion of GCF-Certified devices incorporating LTE rose from 15 percent in 2012 to 39 percent in 2013 and to nearly 53 per cent in 2014 282 LTE devices were certified in 2014, up 62 per cent compared with the 171 LTE device certified in 2013.
Reflecting the diversity of bands in which LTE is being deployed worldwide, GCF Certification expanded to encompass a total of 16 FDD and four TDD bands by the end of 2014. FDD LTE bands 12 (700 MHz Lower A/B/C) and 28 (APT700) have, so far, been added in 2015.
During 2014, devices were actually certified in 14 FDD bands and four TDD bands.
Multi-band LTE devices continued to become more commonplace during 2014.
Of the 282 devices incorporating FDD LTE, 233 (82.5 per cent) incorporated three or more LTE bands compared with 65 per cent in 2013. 55 devices incorporated five LTE bands, 38 incorporated six bands and 36 devices incorporated seven or more bands. Three devices incorporated 11 FDD LTE bands. 33 devices supported both FDD and TDD operation.
2014 saw the certification of the first category 6 LTE devices capable of supporting carrier aggregation. With so many different LTE bands, the number of potential carrier aggregation band combinations is enormous. A trusted certification framework is essential to the successful widespread deployment of this important functionality.
The ability to effectively and efficiently test multi-band, multi-mode devices promotes the economies of scale that are essential to the delivery of affordable but advanced devices for Africa. The experience that exists among GCF’s members will be invaluable to the commercialisation of new 5G wireless technologies in the years ahead.