Testing: Plugtests, conformance, certification and interoperability It’s all the same thing – right?

26 June 2018 – The TCCA Interoperability (IOP) Testing & Certification process was developed to enable a trusted, open multi-vendor market for TETRA equipment. The multi-vendor market gives benefits both to the users in terms of the broadest product portfolio of compatible equipment, competitive pricing and rapid entry of new product models; and to the industry in terms of a wider accessible market, faster market take-up and better directed investment in new product developments.

In order to meet these objectives – and similarly for critical communications broadband equipment – various testing initiatives like Plugtests, conformance testing, certification testing and product interoperability testing are needed.

Plugtests are the first and initial verification of implementations of new standards and protocols; it serves as a validation of the standard as well as early practical test of the participating vendors and their implementations. It allows identification of major ambiguities or misunderstanding in the interpretation of the standards leading to a common understanding of how a standard has to be implemented.

Conformance testing covers activities that determine whether a process, product, or service complies with the requirements of a specification, technical standard, contract, or regulation. Various markets have specific regulations for e.g. type approval (USA: FCC, Canada: ISED, EU: CE & RED and others). Conformance is also tested towards protocols.

Interoperability testing ensures that a product (equipment, software etc.) from one vendor works together with a product from another vendor, and vice-versa.

Certification is the formal declaration of conformance or interoperability, and demonstrates that a mobile phone or wireless product is compliant with a standard and works together with other vendor’s products.

For critical communications broadband devices, the TCCA has engaged with the Global Certification Forum (GCF) to develop testing and certification for MCPTT services operating on the devices. GCF Certification demonstrates that a mobile phone or connected device conforms with mobile standards.

GCF Certification is used by MNOs as a foundation for their own testing. For MCPTT, the certification will test the mobile device with the installed MCPTT client application against a MCPTT Application Server simulator to certify a basic subset of the MCPTT functionality.

Other examples for protocol conformance testing are the WiFi Forum and Bluetooth (BT) Forum testing, which provide testing and certification against the Wi-Fi and BT standards.

An interoperability testing and certification process for critical communications broadband equipment – with a similar trust level as that of the TETRA IOP – still needs to be developed. Protocol verification, which is part of conformance testing, alone will not be sufficient. Specific scenarios such as group call, private call, emergency call, pre-emption should be tested. To allow vendors to implement the same set of options from the standards and then to test these, the vendors and users need to agree on a ‘roadmap’ for the implementation of the various options from the standards, based on prioritized uses cases. In that way, operation in real live situations can be assured.


About TCCA

TCCA represents all standard mobile critical communications technologies and complementary applications. Our Members are drawn from end users, operators and industry across the globe. We believe in and promote the principle of open and competitive markets worldwide through the use of open standards and harmonised spectrum. We maintain and enhance the TETRA Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) standard, and drive the development of common global mobile standards for critical broadband. TCCA is a 3GPP Market Representation Partner and a member of the Mission Critical Open Platform (MCOP) project. Our Members actively contribute in 3GPP working groups.  To find out more, please visit www.tcca.info or contact us at admin@tcca.info

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