Everyone knows Wi-Fi these days—and seeks it out. Whether it’s looking for the sticker in the window when choosing a cafe (probably because you’re working remotely between meetings), pulling out a mobile device to look for the best network you can “see,” or asking your friend what their “Wi-Fi password” is when over for a visit, everyone knows what Wi-Fi is and expects some level of performance when using it. Really, it’s the last part that is starting to cause some headaches around the industry, especially if you’re a service provider. Increasingly, service providers are fielding support calls from their customers tracing back to poor Wi-Fi performance. The proliferation of Wi-Fi as the dominate “last hop” network to most user devices is definitely driving this trend, and wireless connectivity will continue to fill this role for the foreseeable future.
Given these trends, it’s no surprise there are increasing trends in Wi-Fi testing, specifically around Wi-Fi performance testing. Service providers need mechanisms to enable a common comparison between the Wi-Fi devices they’re providing to their subscribers. Anyone familiar with testing and Wi-Fi knows this is no small task, given the complexity, large number of variables, equipment required, and laboratory know-how involved. Most recently, the Broadband Forum began a project to create a test plan specifically for Wi-Fi performance testing, aiming to test the access-point devices that are typically included in broadband customer premises equipment (CPE). This is a unique step, since it’s the first time the industry’s really come together with a goal to specifically test Wi-Fi performance, and more critically, develop a test plan that includes some absolute performance requirements to issue pass/fail type results for devices. This test plan and the results produced from its procedures will give service providers with a way to perform the apples-to-apples comparisons between devices (which is really a first for the industry).
Implementation of the testing doesn’t exclude any of the usual complexities one would expect to reside within Wi-Fi testing. However, the test plan is aiming to account for those complexities through careful requirements on the test setup and equipment used for testing. The testing also accounts for the different Wi-Fi technologies that might be present in the network, such as 802.11n and 802.11ac, as well as impacts caused by older stations on the network (802.11a, 802.11g, etc.).
While the test plan is still under development within the forum, the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) has been participating in that development, along with building up the testing within our lab and contributing feedback into the test plan throughout that process. We’ll be discussing the testing and this initial implementation during our upcoming webinar on Thursday, May 31, at 11:00 am EDT. To register for this complimentary webinar, visit the webinar registration page.