GCF, the Global Certification Forum, is on schedule to release an LTE device certification scheme before the end of 2010 – in time for a wave of commercial LTE networks going live in late 2010. Designed to give operators confidence in the interoperability of LTE devices across different networks, GCF's unified scheme will embrace both FDD and TDD versions of LTE.
Established in 1999, GCF has a total membership of more than 200, including many of the world's most influential telecommunications companies from the operator, device manufacturer and test industry communities. With its "test once, use anywhere" ethos, GCF certification accelerates time to market for new devices based on 3GPP standards while reducing costs for manufacturers, operators and, ultimately, end-users. For both GSM and 3G, GCF certification has underpinned international roaming.
Bringing sophisticated new technologies such as LTE within the scope of GCF Certification is a massive undertaking involving the selection, prioritization and validation of more than 280 conformance tests in the first instance. In addition a comprehensive field trial regime is being developed. The test industry plays a vital role through the timely investment in the required new test platforms and test facilities.
To meet the needs of the US, Japanese and European markets, LTE Certification will initially encompass the FDD frequency bands at 700MHz, 2100MHz and 2500MHz respectively. For TDD, certification is currently being developed for the 2300-2400MHz and 2570-2620MHz bands that have been allocated for LTE in China. GCF is structuring LTE certification so that, as the need arises, it can be extended quickly and efficiently to other frequency bands.
The development of conformance testing has been divided into three distinct areas: RF; the E-UTRA protocol; and the Evolved Packet Core protocol. A total of six teams have been established to develop the conformance criteria for each of the three areas across the FDD and TDD variants.
The prioritisation and definition of conformance testing are now virtually complete for both FDD and TDD and the validation of agreed conformance tests is beginning to gather momentum. GCF is working very closely with RAN5, the 3GPP group responsible for developing mobile device conformance test standards, to ensure that the scheme remains aligned with the very latest developments in 3GPP.
The development of LTE certification enjoys the active support of GCF members from around the world. Operators from Japan and China are providing overall leadership for the conformance testing efforts for FDD and TDD respectively while six leading manufacturers have stepped forward to lead the work items that make up each of the FDD and TDD strands of the project
Requirements for field trials – a unique feature of GCF Certification – are being prioritized into two phases by GCF's Field Trial Agreement Group (FTAG). With a target completion date of June 2010, phase 1 requirements will include between 80 and 90 new field test scenarios consistent with the functionality anticipated in the first commercial LTE devices. Around 40% of the test cases have already been written.
Several major operators, manufacturers, test companies and the GSMA Devices Group are working together on the development of LTE field trial procedures.
"Certification will play a critical role in the long-term commercial success of LTE," said Adriana Nugter, GCF Operations Manager. "GCF has been formally working on LTE Certification since March 2008 and by focusing the efforts of experts from across the operator, manufacturer and test communities, we are confident that certification will be in place in time for a wave of operator launches anticipated towards the end of the year."
GCF will provide an update on the progress of LTE device certification to "Readying for the Launch of Next Gen Networks" at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Thursday 18 February 2010.