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Portable 3G tester checks handsets, networks

Posted: 19 Oct 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:racal instruments wireless solutions? riws? aeroflex? 6413a?

The nomadic addition to Racal Instruments Wireless Solutions' (RIWS is an Aeroflex Company) test suite expands the company's range of communications protocol and parametric test systems. Best of all, the new 6413A will let users carry signaling protocol tests into the field, even up towers and to remote cellsites.

Presently, RIWS manufactures test gear for everything from infrastructure testing to handset testing, with equipment for just about every stage of cellphone development and deployment. The company's products are available for testing key 2G, 2.5G and 3G wireless technologies, including the likes of UMTS, cdmaOne, cdma2000, TD-SCDMA, GSM, GPRS and EDGE.

A box for all seasons

Whether users are working in product development and conformance testing, or production, installation and commissioning, the 6413A should help them optimize both their product and network. It packs both USB and Ethernet interfaces.

In use, the 6413A is a single-box that is able to take control of a system's Node B via the so-called lub interface, and perform all critical transmitter, receiver and functional tests. The 6413A packs an RF source that covers 800MHz through 960MHz, as well as 1.71GHz to 2.2GHz. Its receiver section spans 800MHz to 2.2GHz (the Region 1 allocation 2.11GHz to 2.17GHz; Region 2 covers 1.93GHz to 1.99GHz).

In addition, the lub interface connects an RNC (radio network controller) with Node B. The RNC plays a similar role to the BSC (base station controller) in a GSM network, but supports Node Bs as used in UMTS networks.

No outboard controller

Significantly, although the 6413A has Ethernet and USB connectivity, it can run its tests without the need for any outboard control equipment. It also does its testing without the operator having to have detailed knowledge of Node B operation and control. All measurements are performed in accordance with the recommendations of 3GPP TS25.141.

One-button testing

RIWS included a one-button test feature into its box. This feature lets users set up a custom test sequence in advance. That sequence can then be runby pushing a single buttonin the field. That can be a boon for technicians and semi-skilled field personnel.

What's more, for systems with different Node B types, or even a mix of manufacturer's equipment, different sequences can be set up for each. Network-specific configuration info can also be built into the sequences, thereby removing the need to set up each time a new site is visited.

On-site testing of Node Bs, at initial installation and during maintenance, can be vital in preventingand solvingperformance problems. Testing can also give network operators confidence in the quality of a deployed network, as poorly performing Node Bs can have a significant impact on the QoS (Quality of Service) experienced by users of a 3G network.

Command and control

The 6413A can control a base station and make full receiver measurements. This is done by the inclusion of manufacturer-specific control software. As such, the 6413A is able to test Node Bs from Motorola, Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia, Nortel and Siemens. The company said that additional manufacturers will be added as enhancements to the 6413A.

Whether it's caused by incorrect configuration, a bad installation, gradual degradation in performance, or a failure of a module, the end result is that subscribers may suffer a degraded QoS.

That's where the 6413A comes in. The system can reduce the number of times an installation team needs to revisit a cell site by testing all Receive and Transmit paths, from RF to lub.

Significantly, the 6413A sports an intuitive human interface. Using an embedded PC and touch-screen controls, all of the unit's functions can be operated from the front panel. Among other functions, the unit will measure RF output power, measure stability and frequency errors (within 0.05ppm of the assigned frequency), and make EVM (error vector magnitude) tests.

When measuring power, the unit can handle Node Bs with RF output power between 20dBm and 46dBm, all without the need for any RF attenuators. The 6413A will also make PCDE (peak code domain error) tests, as well as measure ACLR (adjacent channel leakage ratio).

All of these measurements can be viewed while tests are running, or the results can be stored for subsequent analysis on your PC.

Once configured for the network (a one-time operation), the 6413A uses its built-in lub controller, taking complete control of the Node B and automatically setting it up to transmit known signals that are then measured by the 6413A (the instrument can also perform Node B transmitter tests without using lub control).

Receive tests

On the receive side, the 6413A's ability to control the Node B via lub, as well as decode information transmitted from the Node B on the lub interface, enables bit error rate (BER) measurements to be made.

The 6413A can also test receivers for reference sensitivity levels and dynamic range. Operation is similar to transmitter testing. Once the 6413A has been configured for your network, it acts as an RNC and configures the Node B to expect certain signals at the receiver. The unit then transmits the received data via the lub to the 6413A. The 6413A then performs BER measurements to make sensitivity and dynamic range measurements on the complete receive path.

Besides testing Transmit and Receive paths, the 6413A can also make a functional test of the complete Node B. This gives you the ability to confirm that the Node B is not only working correctly, but also that the configuration of the Node B correctly matches the network configuration. The 6413A can make Node B reset and lub link tests.

The 6413A costs about $97,000 (and up, depending on options).

- Alex Mendelsohn


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