USA: LTE devices for three regions – Asia, US and Europe – have been GCF-certified since the Global Certification Forum (GCF) launched LTE device certification in December 2010.
During 2011, and in response to the worldwide interest in LTE, GCF Certification was extended to cover seven spectrum bands in which LTE is being deployed or trialled. Anticipating the market’s need for multi-mode devices, the scheme was also expanded to provide assurance that devices incorporating both LTE and 3G (WCDMA/UMTS) are capable of handover between radio-access technologies.
As of 16 February, eight manufacturers offer GCF-Certified LTE devices. A total of 15 LTE devices have been certified. Of these, five incorporate dual-band LTE.
The importance of integrating LTE with operators’ established service offerings is highlighted by the fact that multi-mode devices are already becoming the norm. 3G, in at least one band, is a feature of 12 of the devices. Ten incorporate multi-band GSM as well as multi-band 3G. Certified devices include USB modems (dongles), LTE-connected Wi-Fi gateways, handsets, tablets and an embedded module.
For the first five years of its commercial existence, 3G was largely confined to the 2100 MHz band outside the unique spectrum system found in North America. In contrast to 3G, regional differences in LTE bandallocations resulted in LTE being deployed across multiple bands and created a risk that diverse testing regimes could emerge to the disadvantage of operators and device manufacturers alike.
The LTE work plan initiated by GCF in early 2008 was designed to allow each band to be considered as a separate certification programme whilst taking advantage of commonalities wherever possible. Coupled with a significant increase in GCF-participation from leading operators in Asia and North America, this approach has allowed GCF to establish a globally harmonised approach to certification that is actively supporting the commercialisation of the new technology.
The scope of LTE certification continues to expand: as operator members from around the world secure additional spectrum, commercial test systems are adapted and test cases are validated for new bands. Two additional FDD bands – 1800 MHz and the US AWS band - were brought within the scheme in February 2012 along with the ability to certify handover between LTE and 3GPP2 CDMA radio access technologies. Work is underway to bring seven more bands - five FDD and two TDD – into the scheme.
“At a time when many GSM, 3G and CDMA operators are starting to migrate to LTE, GCF Certification is providing a platform for harmonized testing that is helping cut costs, reduce time-to-market and contribute to improved economies of scale,” said Adriana Nugter, GCF’s Operations Manager. “Since March 2011 when the first LTE device was certified, the rate of LTE Certification has been building and the increasing incidence of multi-band, multi-mode devices demonstrates that LTE isentering the main-stream.”
Six of the current fifteen devices have been certified since the start of 2012, while four were certified during Q4 2011.