Posts tagged ‘Testing’

Inverting the Pyramid

InvertedPyramidSo now it’s official. It seems that we now have conclusive proof that when it comes to LTE and the iPhone 5, Apple is the one calling the shots – not the carriers.

A report on our sister publication Telecoms.com has confirmed as much after a Swisscom spokesperson inadvertently confirmed it in a report on its LTE network going live.

While full credit goes to Telecoms.com for breaking the story, it was some digging by yours truly that led to confirmation of the news.

While researching the Swisscom story, in its press release Swisscom said that its LTE network would be going live on a triumvirate of frequencies, 800, 1800 and 2600MHz. However, in the release Swisscom said that, “Apple will provide a software update in due course for customers with an iPhone 5 or one of the new iPads.” This piqued my interest, as the iPhone 5 supports 1800MHz LTE, so surely is would simply be a case if putting in a compatible SIM and letting it do its thing.

It seems not. After I enquired further about this Swisscom got back to me to say that, “The iPhone 5 requires a software update since Apple only enables 4G access after having successfully tested their device on an operators live network.”

Wow.

What’s interesting about this is now it demonstrates that the pyramid has been inverted. Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream said he was ‘shocked’ by the news and that it proved that Apple is, “running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”

Operators used to be the ones who gave the go ahead on whether a device was good enough for its network – not the other way round. Carriers used to have the power to make or break a network. There are some who think that this has contributed to HTC’s decline over the last couple of years – with Samsung’s Android device getting most of the subsidy love in the US over HTC.

But as the most valuable company in the world Apple has a power that no one else has. It evidently conducts its own tests to determine whether the network is good enough, and only then will enable its phone to operate on that network via a software update.

It does have strong reasons for doing this. After the release of the original iPhone in 2007 exclusively on AT&T, Apple took a lot of flak after poor reports of performance on that network, and there was nothing it could do to correct that impression.

Now it can ensure that the network experience is as positive as possible, and after the Maps debacle and various other issues it needs to ensure it can do what it can to bolster its reputation.

From an industry perspective, the carriers are unlikely to be happy with this change in the power swing but the success of the iPhone means that the power is now in Apple’s hands and that is showing no sign of waning – just recently Sprint spent heavily (US$15billion over four years) to get the iPhone on its roster.

If you are to judge from the comments left on this story on the various sites around the web, (that is after all how we get a sense of these things these days) there are many punters that seem pleased that Apple is now running that show and dictating things to the carriers. Despite Apple being the one making the huge profits, many view the carriers as the ones restricting customers choice and squeezing the dollars from them anyway they can. While the network is central to what consumers want to do, what the carriers offer is invisible to most of them.

All that implies that when it comes to persuading consumers that the networks have the services that they want and should be paying for, such as Joyn, the operators are going to have their work cut out for them.

EE LTE speeds – on test!

Here are two videos taking at the Science Museum in London following the launch event for EE’s LTE network, which will cover 16 cities across the UK by the end of the year.

Excuse the dodgy camera work, but here we see a quick speed test of EE UK’s LTE network run on a HTC One XL. The 51ms Ping is actually higher than I would have hoped, but 27.8Mbps downlaod and over 19.4Mbps upload is not to be sniffed at for my first experience of UK LTE. Considering I only get 5Mbps upload on my home broadband it’s hard not be be impressed.

Here we see a simple test -Angry Birds being downloaded and installed on a Samsung Galaxy SIII. As is pretty obvious from the video, the one on the left is a 3G handset and the one of the right is LTE. The LTE one has the game downloading, installed and the first level completed, before the 3G is even half way through. (Well two out of three ain’t bad).

VoLTE: the missing piece of the LTE jigsaw

Paul Beaver, products director, of Anite Telecoms

This is a guest post from Paul Beaver, products director, of Anite Telecoms who explains why VoLTE is an important missing link in the LTE success story.

Global LTE deployments are continuing to rise exponentially and the technology continues to gain ground in the marketplace. However, there is one constraining element of LTE that the industry is increasingly keen to resolve – the issue of voice. At present LTE networks are only capable of supporting data and remain unable to process voice calls. This omission is particularly surprising when you consider that traditionally, one of the primary functions of mobile operators is to deliver voice services. This flaw in LTE’s current service portfolio has left operators susceptible to being overtaken in the mobile voice market by OTT providers such as Skype.

However, there is a concerted industry drive to develop a solution which will enable voice calls to be made over LTE networks. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology will ultimately enable operators to introduce new business models to reaffirm their position as providers of premium voice services.

VoLTE trials are currently in progress; and chipset vendors, device manufacturers and mobile operators are testing VoLTE in controlled lab-based environments. Technologically speaking, VoLTE is still in its infancy, and this has naturally led to a wide range of interpretations as to how the mechanism should be integrated in both networks and devices. Each individual operator will initially have a unique set of VoLTE requirements, owing to a diverse range of network sizes, handset models, LTE standards and user numbers. These unique requirements mean that there can be no ‘one size fits all’ VoLTE solution for operators. Therefore, testing will need to be calibrated in order to account for the different conditions that could potentially impact on the operator’s ability to roll out and maintain VoLTE.

Mobile subscribers will expect top quality voice services, and a ‘best effort’ Voice over Internet Protocol type service, such as Skype, will not suffice. VoLTE must offer a high quality of service, or risk a perception among consumers that LTE is an unreliable proposition. Levels of network signalling will naturally escalate as a result of VoLTE’s introduction, and this will undoubtedly put networks under an increased strain. Operators will need to account for this, and incorporate this type of scenario into their testing.

Ultimately, VoLTE’s success will be determined by its ability to deliver a top quality voice service across an all-IP infrastructure, on the newest LTE devices. If VoLTE is to emerge as a genuine, and strong, commercial possibility, then the industry will need to co-operate.

The effective introduction of VoLTE is fundamentally dependent upon a rigorous programme of testing from the very outset. This could be a relatively time consuming and expensive process. However, that does not have to be the case, as handset manufacturers, chipset vendors and mobile operators can leverage lab-based testing; which provides a simulated network environment in which to test audio quality and component interoperability. By adopting this process, operators are no longer fundamentally reliant upon live network testing and lengthy, costly device field trials. Meticulous VoLTE testing can be undertaken at a reduced cost, and with far greater ease, to ensure VoLTE works perfectly and keeps operators at the top of the voice delivery market.

The LTE Asia 2012 conference is taking place on the 8-19 September 2012 at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Click here to register your interest.

LTE Spectrum bands foxing networks and devices alike

Paul Beaver, products director at Anite

This is a guest blog post from Paul Beaver, products director at Anite. Anite has been shortlisted at the LTE Awards 2012 in the Best Test/Measurement LTE Product category. 

There will be one billion HSPA and LTE connections by the end of March and that number will double in two years, according to Informa Telecoms & Media. But the roll-out of LTE is not without its challenges. As carriers and handset providers navigate the path to 4G mobile services, not only do they have to cope with multi-technology networks, but also multiple frequency bands. Global LTE frequency allocation will differ because of diverse national regulatory positions on the issue. Current 3GPP specifications for LTE define over 30 potential bands for the technology. This is an inheritance of the different allocations issued by regulators and the ability of LTE to be deployed in a much wider range of frequencies than prior mobile standards.

Incorporating technology to cope with multiple LTE frequencies and supported bandwidths presents a major challenge to operators and manufacturers. One example of the complex problems that LTE brings is the ability to roam onto different international LTE networks, each with their own varied make-up and performance nuances. For instance, French incumbent operators are in the process of bidding for 4G spectrum in the 2.6GHz band, whereas networks in the USA have deployed LTE in the 700MHz–800MHz frequencies. Networks utilising 2.6GHz or 700MHz-800MHz frequencies for LTE could mean that subscribers may have problems connecting to the network when roaming.

Operators and manufacturers will be able to overcome the challenges of supporting multiple LTE frequency bands by developing a comprehensive quality assurance system, based on laboratory based device testing. However, I believe that field testing LTE devices alone is not a practical solution, as it requires a significant amount of time, prohibitively high cost levels and is not repeatable. Imagine replicating a real-life scenario in which a business user is downloading a file on their device, while making an essential voice call, but moving from a 3G coverage area to a 2G cell. Test engineers are not able to fully control such field tests, repeat them exactly or account for changes in RF conditions and network configurations.

Fortunately lab-based LTE device testing does not rely on any live network dependency, and can be optimised to match the profile of an LTE environment and the range of different LTE frequencies. Live LTE device tests can be reproduced in the laboratory from roaming through to data throughput and specific user scenarios, plus many more. Precise examinations can be undertaken at any time, with no actual impact on network subscribers or service, not to mention the lower costs and significant testing ease that the lab environment unlocks.

The LTE World Summit is taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Click here to register your http://ws.lteconference.com/interest.

Verizon kicks off after PC World network test

When it comes to mobile broadband the first question that consumers tend to ask is, “which network is the fastest.” PC World magazine in the US, or at least its web site, has attempted to answer this question with a test of the four major US networks, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, across 13 cities. 4G was tested in locations that offered it, and 3G where it wasn’t.

Two things surprised me from this test. Firstly, that phones were used rather than dongles. Dongles would be a truer test of a network, as their design will be more optimised for data with greater surface area for the antenna and no interference from all the other bits that have to go into a phone.

The other was that Verizon didn’t win – AT&T did. Sure enough, it’s come out against the results, though the best it could muster in terms of an argument was, ‘everyone else normally says we’re better’.

The results show AT&T topping the 4G pile with an average of 8.35Mbps outdoors, while Verizon hit 7.61Mbps. This is less than the 8-12Mbps is says its users will get on average from LTE – so perhaps the use of phones rather than dongles has hurt it here.

Interestingly, PC World seems to have considered 4G the same way that AT-T , including HSPA+ as a fall back from LTE that’s sitll ‘4G’. This has possibly helped it win based as its 3G speeds  HSPA+ speeds are higher than Verizon’s CDMA2000 3G speeds, pushing up its average.

The results also show that Sprint really is in desperate need of an LTE upgrade. WiMAX simply hasn’t kept up with later 3G technologies such as HSPA+ making something of a mockery of it being the first to adopt the ‘4G’ moniker’.

If you’re in the US, do the results smack true for you? Let us know in the comments.

The LTE World Summit is taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Click here to register your http://ws.lteconference.com/interest.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: