Carrier Acceptance Test for 5G Devices

2019-07-31  |  4 min read 

Carrier acceptance test (CAT) is an important phase in the device workflow between conformance and manufacturing. CAT aims to ensure that devices meet user expectations in terms of functionality and performance. 5G devices need to meet the key performance indicators (KPI) of specific mobile networks to achieve that goal.

Operator device acceptance programs can span several aspects including:

  1. Network vendor interoperability so that devices can run on infrastructure equipment from different vendors
  2. Field trials to ensure that devices operate in different locations and usage scenarios
  3. Conformance to ensure device compliance with 3GPP requirements and regulations for emissions and safety
  4. Network simulation for device performance and interoperability

Figure 1 depicts a typical workflow for devices including the different steps of carrier acceptance testing.

Typical 5G Device Workflow

All operators conduct network vendor interoperability testing and field trials. Most perform conformance testing. But only the largest operators typically perform network simulation (even though it offers the greatest assurance of robust device and network performance). In addition, CAT programs focus on features and functions specific to each operator’s network.

5G represents a broad range of new services and paradigms. It requires testing a large matrix of use cases that vary widely. It also demands technical advances to provide greater flexibility and scalability for its many new use cases. These changes increase the importance of validating device quality of experience (QoE) and performance on networks.

Device engineers are under significant pressure to deliver higher performance while accelerating conformance and CAT to advance to commercialization. Confidentiality is another hurdle faced by device engineers while trying to ensure successful device acceptance testing on the first try. But there are solutions--one of which is to use conformance and CAT toolsets to test ahead of time. Spanning RF characteristics, radio resource management (RRM), and protocol, generic test suites represent the most likely network configurations and are sufficient for some use cases. If they are flexible conformance test solutions, they also allow the customization of test cases beyond the certification requirements, enabling device engineers to test for configurations and use cases that are specific to a given network. Network emulation capability allows engineers to verify devices under a range of scenarios in a lab environment.

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Network operators must stress-test devices to ensure that they live up to customer expectations. For device manufacturers, performing CAT in the 5G era has thus become more important than it was with 4G. They need to proactively test their devices in their labs beyond 3GPP conformance tests and regulations in order to accelerate CAT for their devices. While this means that they are now performing tasks that would have previously only been done by carriers, these extra steps are necessary to win the 5G race.

Jumpstarting device acceptance test in the lab is easier said than done, though. However, solutions exist that address the challenges faced by device engineers. Visit our 5G device manufacturers webpage for more information.