Test and Measurement: NIST boosts mission-critical feature testing

A new project supported by funding from the National Institute for Standards and Technology focuses on testing-as-a-service for mission-critical communications features, including MC push-to-talk, data and video.

NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research Division, which provided a grant of $3.5 million to the Networking, Quality and Security (NQaS) research group, part of the University of the Basque Country. The team there is led by Dr. Fidel Liberal, who has served as a technical expert for all four of the ETSI mission-critical plugtest events that have been held to test MC features and interoperability. The university team also has support from Texas A&M University (which hosted one of the MC plugtest events), industry association TCCA, device maker Sonim and a number of other testing experts and ecosystem players.

The grant is part of $300 million set aside for PSCR from when the First Responders Network Authority received the $7 billion in spectrum auction proceeds that would go toward building a nationwide broadband network for public safety; it is intended to be used to fund research that will accelerate technology development in areas that would benefit how first responders communicate.

According to the project description, mission-critical service testing-as-a-service (or MSC TaaSting) is designed to “allow cost efficient regular and frequent testing, re-testing, certification and re-certification of the myriad and increasing combinations of devices, operating systems, middleware and applications.”

“A lack of certification programs for critical broadband has allowed the misuse of the MCPTT/MCData/MCVideo terms, with vendors making ambiguous claims such as ‘3GPP aligned’, ‘MCPTT ready/capable/forward-compatible’ and so on, thus jeopardizing customer confidence,” said Liberal. “To address these issues, the main objective of the MCS-TaaSting project is to develop flexible testing tools for 3GPP’s MCS standards and associated certification procedures based on complete and accurate RAN5 Technical Specifications and TTCN3 code suite and tester. This will drive the market forward and benefit the entire mission critical broadband communications ecosystem.”

For typical consumer use, devices and client software are bundled and tested together and certified by a single vendor. According to a press release on the MSC-TaaSting project, that approach “cannot be directly applied to MCS testing since most of the times the user equipment vendor is not the same as the MCS client provider. Mission critical customers require the MCS provider to be capable of deploying to clients directly, on top of different UEs, with minimal integration effort – to increase competition and innovation and to avoid vendor lock-in.” 

The TaaSting approach’s goal is “make it possible for the increasingly heterogeneous industry to prove the 3GPP standard-compliance of their implementations, and will reassure users and operators that they are buying certified and interoperable products.”

In other test news this week:

Keysight Technologies launched a new “Innovate Anywhere” program aimed at helping engineers continue to be productive, no matter where they are working from during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is offering popular software products, including its flagship Pathwave design workflow product, for free for 90 days, including PC-based options; new remote learning modules that are free for the time being; and a free 30-day trial of its Hawkeye network performance monitoring solution;

“We recognize COVID-19 is causing drastic changes across the globe, in our communities, our homes, and our workplaces. We want to help provide a sense of normalcy and enable customers to do what they do best: to innovate, from anywhere,” said Marie Hattar, CMO at Keysight.

Keysight also this week launched a new single-channel oscilloscope aimed at supporting millimeter wave, satellite and radar communications. The addition to its UXR series, the UXR0051AP Infiniium oscilloscope, has a frequency range of 110 GHz and five gigahertz of standard analysis bandwidth, among other features.

PCTel has cancelled an in-progress stock buy back, citing concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company had announced a buy-back worth up to $7 million in early March and says it had proceeded with about $2 million in purchases before terminating the program this week.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus and its impact on economic and market conditions, the Board determined that it is prudent to terminate the share repurchase program,” said David Neumann, PCTEL’s CEO “Maintaining our strong balance sheet will allow PCTEL flexibility to address the unique and evolving challenges presented by the COVID-19 situation.”

-IoT security compliance company Onward Security, located in Taiwan, said that it has officially received authorization to operate as the exclusive CTIA Authorized Test Lab (CATL) for cybersecurity in Asia. Morgan Hung, GM of Onward Security, said that Onward is also the only Amazon-authorized third-party lab in Taiwan for device testing and security assessment for Alexa built-in products. The company added that the certification from CTIA will enable it to “offer more comprehensive solutions of 5G cybersecurity for customers to seize 5G business opportunities.”

-Electronic components distributor Digi-Key Electronics has signed a North American distribution agreement with test and measurement vendor Siglent Technologies, which produces instruments including oscilloscopes, signal analyzers, waveform generators and other general test equipment.

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