This year, the UNH InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) expanded its Wi-Fi performance testing services to include the new TR-398 Standard (Issue 2) developed by the Broadband Forum, an industry consortium dedicated to developing broadband network specifications. This testing adds new requirements around Wi-Fi 6 defined in the standard (802.11ac) set by the IEEE, a professional association for electronic engineering and electrical engineering.  

The UNH-IOL has been offering Wi-Fi testing services since the early days of the technology when the first IEEE standards came out (802.11a and 802.11b). At the UNH-IOL, device manufacturers can verify the performance and conformance of their devices against these industry standards. Over the years, the lab has continued to develop and expand on testing for Wi-Fi, with the TR-398 being the one of the latest developments in that area. 

What is the Broadband Forum TR-398 Standard?
Wi-Fi has become a critical technology when it comes to internet connectivity, but until recently, there was no industry standard that set a common, agreed-upon definition for the minimum “good” performance of a Wi-Fi device that a service provider like Verizon would provide to their subscribers, such as an access point device. Before TR-398, Wi-Fi device manufacturers like Netgear, D-Link and Linksys had to define their own testing, leading to inconsistent performance reports and claims. Service calls associated with Wi-Fi performance issues have emerged as one of the biggest pain points to service providers, and common Wi-Fi issues like poor signal and insufficient coverage have been exacerbated over the past two years with the pandemic and the switch to remote working and schooling. 

To address these issues, the Broadband Forum, together with manufacturers and laboratories, developed the TR-398 Standard to provide a set of test cases and framework to verify the performance between an access point and one or more stations (e.g., personal computer or mobile phone.) The UNH-IOL participated directly in the development of TR-398, providing data and real measurements from the lab. For the services providers, verifying the performance of these devices helps improve customer experience and reduce complaints and service requests due to poor Wi-Fi from badly performing devices. There is a huge cost savings to be realized if performance issues can be caught before Wi-Fi devices go into the field as well as the opportunity to enhance customer satisfaction and increase customer retention.

What’s new in TR-398 Issue 2
Building on Issue 1, which was released in 2019, TR-398 Issue 2 increases the testing coverage, specifically adding testing for new Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ac) technologies in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The Broadband Forum also launched a Benchmark program that allows vendors to get their products tested and publicly listed as meeting the TR-398 requirements.  The UNH-IOL was selected by the Broadband Forum as one of the labs able to provide that testing. 

“Our updated Wi-Fi performance testing services enable service providers and device manufacturers to validate the devices used in their broadband deployments before those devices ever reach the customer,” said Lincoln Lavoie, principal engineer of broadband technologies at the UNH-IOL. “Testing can also apply to new software versions for existing devices. These are valuable benefits for the industry in terms of reducing customer support costs and enhancing satisfaction.”