Widespread Problems Found with Testing Wireless Handsets

Widespread Problems Found with Testing Wireless Handsets

Abhijit Kabra

Abhijit Kabra

Abhijit Kabra, a senior executive leading the embedded software business and technology initiatives at global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, Accenture, on how handset testing needs to be revamped.

As mobile communications technologies become increasingly sophisticated and complex, mobile handset manufacturers and network operators are under severe pressure to revamp their approaches to testing the products. This may be accomplished by embracing a cohesive and comprehensive testing strategy. By doing so they will be well positioned to reduce product development costs, deliver expected quality levels faster, and defend their brand reputations in an unforgiving market.

But the problems that need to be resolved to reach this goal are numerous and complicated. From development to product launch, handset manufacturers spend millions of dollars testing a device. Yet according to an Accenture survey, 88% of respondents do not do a good job of mobile handset testing.


Vulnerable to costs

Most manufacturers and operators today remain vulnerable to rising costs and expanding risks, because they lack an integrated, well thought out test strategy. Their approaches are fragmented. In some cases they may use remote testing services, while in others they may offshore testing to service providers in certain instances, again promising limited savings or geographic testing coverage. They may use automated systems to handle test cases more productively. But they tend not to apply them in any systematic and integrated fashion. Nor do they have the global testing capabilities necessary, as global product launches draw near, to productively apply these solutions across geographies.

When they fail to meet service levels customers expect, they risk undermining their brand reputations, a severe possibility in today’s hypercompetitive markets. Or they may miss crucial deadlines and allow market windows to close, another potentially fatal blow in markets that often revolve around seasonal product releases.


Identify performance failures

In the past manufacturers may have had the luxury of introducing new mobile handsets region by region. Now they are expected to launch them worldwide, mandating a global launch strategy. Manufacturers may not be able to identify performance failures until after the launch has occurred and the product hits the market. What does this mean for service providers? Their reputations are on the line as they roll out services expected to meet certain performance levels.

To overcome these hurdles, handset manufacturers and service providers should consider a comprehensive new framework to address these testing issues in new ways. Employing remote testing, off-shoring, simulated networks and automation in a structured approach, the framework aims to transform a product test organization’s structure, strategy, infrastructure and processes to help benefit the client significantly on cost, quality and time. Using this framework can help a product manager execute more test cases faster and reduce the risks of leaving defects unfixed in the product.

This approach represents the difference between a suboptimal point solution and a fully integrated optimized solution. Leveraging this framework, development and validation organisations can potentially: cut overall testing costs by as much as 30% to 50%; accelerate product deliveries to market by as much as 20%; and increase the volume of new product release testing by as much as 25%. Following are details about each key element of the framework:


Remote testing

Using this technique devices are tested within a particular geography while running on a wireless service provider network. The tests are conducted from a remote location by accessing the handset over the internet and monitoring the responses on the tester’s computer. The potential benefits of this include the following: a tester can test a large number of device features in multiple locations simultaneously without traveling to the location, using virtual teams across global delivery networks to test devices and report results, helping to reduce costs and increase profits; scripts are created and stored easily by playback of a user scenario performed once on the device, and as a result, quality and consistency of testing can be confirmed; test execution can be automated by a single command that runs a test library at a pre-determined time and logs the results in a log file, which compared with manual testing, the volume of tests that can be executed in a given time is far larger.


Offshore testing

A large part of a handset test specification does not need a live network. Network-independent tests can be run on the handset manually. This type of test can be moved to locations where tester availability and costs are lower.

But offshore solutions can also be defined in terms of having access to field testers within any given geographic area. Service providers with a global network of talent and testing experience may have the ability to conduct tests in various geographical locations, sparing the manufacturers or carrier the costs of flying experts to the field location and setting up relevant field tests.


Simulated network testing

This method is used for new feature testing when network infra¬structure is not yet ready for network tests. Using a simulated network, the technique provides a network condition under which a reasonable number of defects can be identified.


When designing a handset testing framework, it’s essential to fully leverage automation. Test automation does need upfront investments and therefore needs careful evaluation and selecting of the right automation approach for a given product to ensure optimal returns on the investments.

Automation also makes it possible to execute a test library, allowing them to conclude that a defect resolution has taken care of all possible scenarios in which a defect can potentially occur. Such results are impossible to achieve through manual testing. Testing automation, in other words, is a key factor in confirming product stability.


Last word

There are a multitude of intense market pressures that are constantly changing in the wireless industry. This current poor testing situation is one of the most serious and potentially opportunistic. There is not a one size fits all solution to testing. It needs careful evaluation of the product specific needs and a systematic and comprehensive approach, and it needs to be considered a key element of the mobile handset business equation.

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. www.accenture.com

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