Open standards testing made easy

Peter Kenington
20 Mar 2007
00:00

Completing a set of design specifications for a new open standard in the wireless industry is only part of the process in ensuring the overall success of that standard. There are many examples of standards that have failed, or have struggled to gain credibility, through interoperability problems involving supposedly standards-compliant products.

The Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI) has defined a set of standard specifications for the interfaces between the modules present in a wireless base-station. An integral part of these specifications is a comprehensive set of test requirements to ensure that a compliant product is also an interoperable one. Based on these requirements, standard test systems are now becoming available on the open market.

OBSAI consists of more than 130 companies involved in the design, specification and manufacture of base-station subsystems, modules and components. Its aim is to standardize the interfaces, connector types, connector pin-outs and module dimensions for the internal components within a mobile communications base station, like what the PCI-bus standard has done for PC cards in the desktop computer space.

A key part of the OBSAI standardization process has been the agreeing of comprehensive test specifications for all aspects of the OBSAI interfaces and module characteristics. OBSAI has recognized very early on in its existence that test documentation is essential in ensuring the seamless interoperability of components and modules, from the wide range of member companies associated with the group.

Without these specifications, the chance of interoperability problems occurring and impacting upon the credibility of the specifications is very high. Once operators, who are the ultimate customers of OBSAI-standardized products, lose faith in a particular standard, it is very difficult to restore that faith and the whole ethos on which OBSAI is based would have suffered greatly and perhaps fatally.

Testing is, therefore, very much at the heart of the OBSAI culture and an integral part of the overall development of the organization.

There were two crucial aspects in ensuring the smooth development of the test specifications for OBSAI.

First, it was important to engender cross-fertilization between the test group and the main specification groups (termed "Ëœreference point' committees after the reference points for which they were responsible. Reference Point 3 (RP3), for example, is the interface between the baseband and RF modules within a base-station cabinet).

This cross-fertilization was achieved by joint meetings of the test and RP groups during the face-to-face sessions held every six to eight weeks.

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