Farncombe, an independent provider of engineering services and testing to the global TV industry, today (18 June 2013) announced that it has partnered with the University of Bristol to offer the industry’s most comprehensive and repeatable W-iFi testing service.
Virgin Media, one of the first clients for the service, appointed Farncombe for the independent testing of its new Super Hub; to provide input, technical recommendations; and to help Virgin Media support subscribers and optimise their quality of experience
Farncombe launched the industry’s first Wi-Fi product benchmarking service for the connected home in 2012. The service is designed to help video service operators understand the effectiveness of Wi-Fi-enabled set-top boxes, gateways, routers and clients
At Virgin Media’s request, Farncombe and the University of Bristol independently rated the throughput and reach of potential devices and compared them against other operators’ Wi-Fi devices. This helped Virgin Media ensure its recently-launched Super Hub became the best-in-class for cost/performance and quality of service. The testing helped prove that the new Super Hub is the best performing 5GHz router with three antennas currently available from UK operators.
‘As subscribers demand simultaneous real-time streaming of HD video to multiple devices, there is a real need to understand how a Wi-Fi router will impact the subscriber’s quality of experience,’ said Gary Marshall, managing partner at Farncombe.
‘Without thoroughly testing a consumer device, the risks for an operator can be huge. As well as incurring the costs of subscribers contacting call-centres and returning boxes, consumer dissatisfaction can damage a brand. Our service provides operators with invaluable data to help them understand the Wi-Fi performance of their devices – turning a black art into an understandable science.’
Professor Andrew Nix of the University of Bristol, added: ‘Today's Wi-Fi chips are powerful devices. With such clever technology you don’t expect to have to twiddle the antennas to improve reception, just like the aerial on a 1970s TV set. Yet that is still often the case. By pooling the resources of academia and business, we provide a service that combines hardware and theoretical analysis. The result is the first-ever rigorous scientific approach to Wi-Fi testing.’
The number, type, position and angle of the antennas relative to the chips, power supply and casing all impact on the efficiency of the Wi-Fi signal. To quantify these variables, the University of Bristol researchers have established an automated, repeatable process for benchmarking using its sophisticated channel emulation equipment. This uses a network of more than 100 PCs to analyse Wi-Fi performance over 1.44 million links.
Mike Robinson, head of CPE quality engineering at Virgin Media said: ‘We had two leading prototypes for the next generation Super Hub when we approached Farncombe and the University of Bristol for their recommendations. The resulting benchmarking gave us critical information on performance of the antenna design, positioning and its connection to the Wi-Fi chipset that has resulted in the best-in-class Wi-Fi router.’
Farncombe conducts real-world testing to determine how the positioning of the router, access points and multiple clients impacts Wi-Fi efficiency. Farncombe’s Hardware Design Service also reviews the products and provides advice to clients on features that could cost-effectively improve performance.