Test and Measurement: GCF to certify NTN IoT, 5G devices
The Global Certification Forum is adding device certification for cellular Non-Terrestrial Networks to its programs, responding to increasing interest across the industry in making sure that IoT devices and mobile phones successfully interoperate with emerging satellite-based connectivity options.
NTN certification will be activated with the next release of GCF certification criteria next month, according to the organization. GCF plans to activate a narrowband IoT certification testing for NTN first, to be followed by NTN certification for 5G New Radio devices.
“By facilitating certification for a large number of device manufacturers and models, GCF is leading the way—helping satellite operators set the stage for placing NTN-capable devices on the market,” said Isabelle Mauro, director general at the Global Satellite Operators Association (GSOA). “Activation of an industry-wide certification program is a great achievement towards this goal.”
In a blog post published this week, GCF’s Head of Business Development Carlos Pedraz wrote that GCF said that it has been actively working since the beginning of 2023 to introduce NTN standards into its certification program, starting with initial frequency bands n255 (L-band) and n256 (S-band). The 3GPP Rel-17 NTN certification for NB-IoT will cover both LEO and GEO constellations, he noted.
“With field trials for NTN still being analysed and developed, the initial focus is set on conformance testing,” Pedraz wrote. “Subject to GCF members approval, certification of NTN NB-IoT devices could start with conformance test cases only, until NTN commercial networks are available and test specifications for field trials are made available.”
He said that the GSMA Terminal Steering Group provides the test specification (for field trials in terrestrial networks being used in GCF certification. That spec is “constantly evolving” and already on version 43, Pedraz noted, but it does not yet support field trials for NTN connectivity, which are being developed. “The focus is set on the definition of NTN-IoT test cases (for both GEO and LEO), and field trials are a key area,” Pedraz wrote.
“While a way forward to test real implementations is desirable, there are a number of challenges to overcome,” he continued. “This includes technical issues due to the movement of satellites and the great distance from devices under test, such as Doppler shift, Faraday rotation, and high attenuation. But in addition, there are also likely issues due to the low availability of satellite networks and the density of satellites, as well as limited access to GCF RTOs (Recognised Test Organisations) to subscriptions, test spots, and information about constellations.”
In other test news:
–Anritsu is getting in on NTN testing for Skylo‘s network, announcing this week that it is collaborating with Skylo on test support for device, module and chipset makers to be able to assess product compatibility with and performance on Skylo’s network. Anritsu said that it will be supporting a number of test areas, including device RF parametrics, Over-The-Air (OTA), Performance, Protocol Conformance, and RF Conformance tests.
-The Electronic Communications Office of Iceland (ECOI) tapped Rohde & Schwarz to test the performance, coverage and capacity of the country’s three mobile network operators, based on the Network Performance Score (NPS) 2.0 standard from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
“ECOI is one of the first regulatory authorities in Europe to rely on the NPS for such a large-scale network benchmarking campaign,” R&S noted, going on to say, “NPS version 2.0 applies more challenging thresholds and intricate weighting, especially for developed networks dominated by 5G technology, as is the case in Iceland.”
The five-week benchmarking campaign took place in September and October of 2023, and Rohde said that it involved around 9,000 kilometers of drive-testing in Iceland’s large cities, small towns and rural roads, in areas covering approximately 90% of the country’s population. Coverage and network quality within shopping malls were also tested.
The test campaign encompassed more than 17,000 calls and more than 160,000 data tests, including application-level tests for 90-second voice calls, eGaming applications, online meetings and video chats, according to Rohde & Schwarz.
“The benchmark measurements confirmed that all three mobile networks in Iceland; Síminn, Nova and Vodafone scored over 700 points (out of 1000), making them on par with other mobile networks in Europe,” the test company said. “All three networks have very good 5G coverage in cities and towns and excellent 4G coverage nationwide. Both voice and data services are reliable, but there is still room for improvement.”
-The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has been granted authorization by the Federal Communications Commission to test the use of a private cellular network relying on 900 MHz spectrum held by Anterix for the agency’s utilities operations. More details in this story.
–T-Mobile US continues to ratchet up its network speeds, with modern chipsets able to achieve a median download speed of 188.96 Mbps during the fourth quarter of 2023, up from 163.59 Mbps during the third quarter and a “strong increase”, according to new analysis from Ookla. Verizon Wireless and AT&T also both saw speed increases, but remain “distant runners up”, the company added. Verizon’s median download speed for Q4 2023 came in at 91.62 Mbps, with AT&T at 90.82 Mbps. Full story is here.
-How does Dish Wireless’ network look in a match-up against another operator, particularly outside of its market of initial focus (Las Vegas)? Signals Research Group delved into that question in a new report, using Samsung Galaxy devices in extended drive tests in the Twin Cities area to compare band-level spectral efficiency and performance. Read the RCR story.