Test & Measurement

Azimuth Ties LTE Lab Testing to the Field

Azimuth Systems wants to revolutionize how wireless operators and device makers test new LTE devices, so it's launching a platform that it claims will give them the entire picture, from the lab to the field and from the network to the device (and the apps on it).

Azimuth Systems, Inc. has been in the test and measurement space since 2002, but the Device Automation and Control (DAC) and Diagnostics and Analytics (DnA) products announced Wednesday are more comprehensive than anything it has previously offered. And, as you'd expect, the test vendor believes they are more comprehensive than anything that other vendors (such as Spirent and Anritsu) have to offer. That's the view of Azimuth's vice president of marketing and product management, Amit Malhotra, who joined the company this year after Spirent Communications plc , acquired his previous company, the testing vendor Metrico Wireless. (See: Spirent Agrees to Buy Metrico Wireless.)

Together, DAC and DnA illustrate the user experience and device logs, letting operators or device makers compare performance, measure against pre-determined key performance indicators, issue pass-fail alerts, and produce offline analysis.

The testing starts in the lab at the app level, where voice calls, messaging, data, and video streaming are tested. It then moves to the field to test network conditions, creating reports that can be shared by operators, manufacturers, or any relevant partners. Malhotra told us Azimuth has taken the software that works well in the lab and modified it for use in the field to reduce the time and expense of testing.

Azimuth says its products give a more complete picture of the customer experience, but it will have to convince operators to move away from their entrenched siloed practices for test and measurement.

"Typically today, the operators and OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are using off-the-shelf tools that they then have to manipulate a great deal or use manually to try to get to that information," Malhotra said. "It's all done in a siloed way. This is a way to tie it all together."

Why this matters
In a recent Vasona Networks survey, 64 percent of smartphone owners said it is reasonable to expect "good performance all the time" from their mobile data provider, and 40 percent typically blame the mobile service provider when there is a problem with an app. In this age of heightened consumer expectations, especially on much-hyped LTE networks, the need for comprehensive testing can't be overstated.

That said, the test and measurement space is crowded with vendors pitching different ways to test new wares in the labs, in the field, or both. A lot of the wireless operators are also turning their attention to testing LTE-Advanced network features such as carrier aggregation and prepping voice-over LTE devices for deployment.

Malhotra said most LTE-Advanced testing is happening at the network level and on prototype devices in the labs, but Azimuth's products will be ready when compatible devices are commercially available.

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Vishnu Goel 9/4/2013 | 10:34:50 AM
The operators are yet to see a confident LTE test vendor end to end!  

There are different T&M vendors and code writers claiming total test solution including software and application written for different network elements.But we are yet to see some marquee customers adopting a particular vendor embedded in test

fully. I think VoLTE  and MIMO testing is still not bug free,and there are issues on Adv version LTE testing too.We are still offering old T&M approach of box and portable in this new age technology.Vishnu Goel T&M +919810101238

Sarah Thomas 9/4/2013 | 9:53:25 AM
VoLTE My guess is testing VoLTE, in the lab on prototype devices and increasingly in the field, is priority number one today for LTE operators.
Sarah Thomas 9/4/2013 | 9:52:37 AM
Cost of T&M Azimuth's contention is that operators aren't keeping up with the speed of change in today's LTE networks and with devices and apps. It says its system works a lot faster, gives the complete view, and costs less. We didn't get in to the exact cost, but I wonder how much T&M is setting operators back and if they're cutting corners because of it. I would imagine it's a priority given customer expectations, but you still see a lot of buggy phones today. 
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