WiMAX and LTE, especially when using bandwidth-efficient configurations like bi-directional Multiple-In, Multiple-Out (MIMO) and beamforming, promise a near nirvana of high- speed data possibilities. They also promise a potential nightmare of configuration issues that must be thoroughly tested to make sure everything performs up to snuff.

MIMO increases network efficiency by allowing antennas to process numerous incoming and outgoing signals simultaneously on both the downstream and upstream. Beamforming is a signal processing technique that controls the directionality: determine and increase the receiver sensitivity in the direction of wanted signals and decrease the sensitivity in the direction of interference and noise. Both will be integral parts of network-efficient next-generation mobile delivery platforms.

“People get very carried away with the economics and even some of the core network issues, but what doesn’t tend to get attention is that the weakest link is always the air interface,” said Nigel Wright, vice president of product marketing at Spirent Communications. “That’s where there’s the greatest area of variability and that’s where the promise of the technology can fall down because people haven’t anticipated the wide range of horror scenarios that it can encounter in the real world.”

Spirent, which makes a living building performance analysis and service management solutions, is stepping into that void with a series of packaged configurations targeted at WiMAX and LTE network operators, equipment manufacturers and device manufacturers.

“This is an attempt to say whatever complex techniques you’re looking to deploy in the air interface we can help you really give those a thorough workout in the lab and anticipate as many problems as possible,” he said.

This includes working out code changes and optimizing the network “before you get thousands or even millions of subscribers and everyone’s upset because it’s not performing the way it’s expected,” Wright said.

“Mobile WiMAX and LTE standardization is being accelerated and there’s no doubt that in the next year to 18 months we’ll start to see some deployments,” he continued. “The question is the performance and the quality of the user experience. They (service providers) are relying on some techniques for deployments that haven’t really been that widely deployed outside of buildings and laboratories (and pre-deployment testing) is going to be really important if they’re going to see anything like the kinds of data rates that the (WiMAX and LTE) boosters would have us believe.”