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How to prepare for OTA antenna testing?

Are you looking for a test laboratory to perform an over-the-air antenna test for you wireless device? We are here to help you. Read our article to find out how to prepare for over-the-air antenna testing!

By Lotta | on 04.08.2022 at 14:20 GMT+0200. | Modified 08.11.2022 at 18:58 GMT+0200.

How to prepare for OTA antenna testing?
  1. What is OTA testing
  2. Why OTA testing?
    1. Benefits of OTA antenna testing
  3. When to perform OTA antenna test?
  4. OTA testing requirements
  5. How to prepare for OTA antenna test?
  6. After OTA testing
  7. Verkotan OTA services

What is OTA testing?

OTA testing is an approach used to measure the wireless performance and reliability of a wireless device via the antenna. The radio signal of the wireless device is examined in various ways by simulating use cases in real-life conditions. To achieve this, the device under test (DUT) is set down in a test environment inside a test chamber, which is isolated from any outside signals. The goal is to verify the wireless performance and that the device responds to test conditions and performs as intended.

Why OTA testing?

When developing new wireless products and solutions, the characteristics of its embedded antennas are optimized for different antenna parameters.  Several factors affect the wireless performance of a device. The final design is always a result of multiple compromises in the functional requirements the product must meet. Some factors like choice of materials, placing of components and intended use cases affect device performance drastically.

OTA testing typically measures the sensitivity and radiated transmission power of a device. If these measures are poor, it affects a lot to end-user experience. First of all, if these measures are not satisfactory, the wireless connections to different radio systems may break up continuously or in the worst case, not connect at all. For example, the connection between a smartwatch and Bluetooth headset may break up or interrupt other radio connections.

The transmission power of the device needs to be tested in all the bands that the DUT uses. In every band, the low, mid, and high frequency must be measured.

Compared to the transmission power, which is typically measured at low, mid, and high frequencies of a certain band, the sensitivity is good to be measured at all the frequencies of a certain band. This is because today’s devices are complex, they include CPUs, screens, sensors, radios, etc. It is important to make sure that that these all work seamlessly together without interfering with each other’s operations. For example, radio reception is very sensitive to a clock and data signal interference. Whether the screen is on or in what operating situation the device is in, can have a big impact on the radio sensitivity.  For example, it is good to have the screen on during testing, because if it is turned off, many potential disturbances disappear (no data is sent, the clock goes off, etc.).

Benefits of OTA antenna testing

OTA antenna test benefits a product manufacturer in many ways. More specifically OTA testing

  • Verifies that the product wireless performance targets are met
  • Highlights potentially costly design errors
  • Allows for benchmarking between product variants and competing products
  • Secures meeting rigorous product development schedules
  • Secures customer satisfaction and brand value
Antenna test for base station antenna
Base station antenna inside an OTA test chamber

When to perform OTA antenna testing?

OTA testing can be done at any point of product development cycle. In particular, OTA testing at R&D stage is very important to avoid costly design errors: when the possible problems in wireless performance are recognized early on, the product can be developed towards the right direction from the beginning. This saves money and time. OTA testing is also recommended to be performed regularly after the product release to ensure the quality stability of production lifetime.

OTA antenna test requirements

OTA antenna testing is not required for CE, FCC, or ISED certification, however, most network operators expect device manufacturers to conduct independent OTA testing. OTA testing ensures also good user experience and customer satisfaction when the device’s antenna performance is verified to be good. Poor OTA performance would result in poor throughput in communication and potential access failure. Over-the-air testing is often required by large network operators and wireless industry organizations, to guarantee that the device antenna will function properly in their networks. This encompasses all common radio systems, such as 2G through 5G, WLAN, LTE-M and NB-IoT. Also, passive antenna measurements via OTA are important for antenna designers and manufacturers.

OTA wireless performance measurement itself is regulated by several guidelines and specifications established by telecommunication authorities. When measuring any DUT, the tests usually follow prevailing telecommunication standards. The most common ones are the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) and CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association). For example, to enter markets in the US, wireless device manufacturers and suppliers need to understand the up-to-date requirements for over-the-air testing by the CTIA. Some unique tests also exist that are not in the scope of CTIA or 3GPP but are used by network operators.

Antenna test for base station antenna

How to prepare for OTA antenna testing?

After the OTA antenna test

After passing the OTA antenna test against your criteria, you can be sure about the functionality of your device’s wireless performance. If OTA test results are not satisfactory, the product should be developed towards the right direction to ensure the good user experience. This is easier if the possible design compromises impacting the performance are recognized early on. Antenna performance is important to measure to be sure that the device works as expected in the planned circumstances. OTA antenna testing also gives a valuable information for your next product development project.  

Verkotan OTA services

We provide all the needed OTA testing and analysing services tailored to your needs. We can help you to meet OTA requirements stated by your wireless supplier. OTA testing is one of the most challenging product design areas in wireless devices. Our in-house developed test system, extensive experiences and know-how on wireless performance testing allows us to create custom-built test solutions to suit to our customers’ specific needs.

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