How to measure mobile technology for IoT?

Tim Schaerfke

Tim Schaerfke – IoT Innovation Expert (Vodafone)

“Do we really have reception everywhere we need it?” Many visitors to the Vodafone Innovation Labs ask themselves this question, as the new mobile technologies are demonstrated in a tangible way by exhibiting possible application examples from the industry. The question is frequently asked in particular with regard to the low-power network technologies NB-IoT and LTE-M, as they have excellent building penetration and should therefore still enable a connection to the Internet even in difficult coverage areas, such as basements.

Network Analyzer Device

In response to this question, the first Network Analyzer prototype was developed, which measures the signal strength, quality and SINR value of NB-IoT and LTE-M. The Network Analyzer also measures the GSM network, which is very popular with business customers, for comparison purposes. The SINR value indicates the distance from the useful signal to the interfering signal. The prototype was developed entirely in-house at Vodafone by the IoT Future Lab, from the hardware and housing to the software development. Subsequently, the question: “Where can you buy the device?” became the latest most popular question in the Innovation Lab. This led to the decision to develop the Network Analyzer into a small series product with the help of a partner company.

The strength of the signal is measured in decibels milliwatts (dBm), with higher values (i.e. those closer to zero) indicating a stronger signal strength.

Several development iterations and a CE certification later, the Network Analyzer is now available. Now customers can answer the connectivity question for themselves. The Network Analyzer shows the measurement results of the mobile radio technologies on the built-in e-paper display and simultaneously sends them to the Vodafone internal platform GK4.0. The operation of the device is reduced to a single push of a button. When switched on, the device automatically measures the respective mobile phone technologies. This allows customers to test independently and view and analyze the measurement results on the platform itself.

Network Analyzer Dashboard

The independent testing of connectivity gives customers the certainty of knowing where reception is available and thus investment security before a product development based on the respective mobile radio technologies is commissioned. The Network Analyzers can be ordered as rental devices via e-mail