Testing, Testing

Back to Contents of Issue: December 2000

Japan's 3G cellular services will debut in mid-May, but a few lucky testers are enjoying them already.

by Daniel Scuka


The cutting edge of cellular testing gear (if not of photography). PCS Asia's Opera test suite uses the Dimensionz analysis tool, software capable of analyzing both voice and data quality, which few existing systems can do.

HELP! ANTENNA-CLAD SURVEY vehicles keep circling our office! They're, they're ... oh, never mind. They're just testing 3G cellular services. Movie clips on your cell phone, that sort of thing. Of course, it's been widely reported that Japan is the first country where third-generation mobile voice and data networks will go live, but actually they're already live, and being beta-tested in the Roppongi, Minami-Aoyama, and Shibuya areas of Tokyo -- the three neighborhoods surrounding our office building.

Around the middle of May 2001, mobile surfing in Tokyo will shift to warp speed after NTT DoCoMo flips the switch on its spanking new 364-Kbps, W-CDMA 3G network. (Osaka and the rest of the country will be covered incrementally throughout the year.) To ensure network stability, the service will initially be offered at a modest speed closer to 64 Kbps, then boosted over time to 115 Kbps, and then to full throttle as handsets and capacity improve.

"Operators" from NEC and Fujitsu -- the primary contractors for installing the W-CDMA cellular base stations -- are stopping at certain points to test signal strength, voice quality, and cell-to-cell hand-off efficiency, among other metrics. Which means they're some of the first people on the planet to try 3G mobile services. We tried to talk to a few, but, understandably, they keep a low profile. "NTT has their own internal testing equipment and procedures, and they're highly proprietary," says Brett Mauer, director of product development at Tokyo-based mobile test equipment maker PCS Asia. Still, it's nice to know that J@pan Inc is literally at the right place at the right time. Now all we've gotta do is lure the testers to a nearby izakaya ...

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