Every physical device Ericsson makes is a complex piece of technology, but they all have one thing in common – they have to work regardless of the conditions.
Antennas deployed in Sweden have to withstand snow, sleet, severe winters, and prolonged periods of rain and humidity—the same antennas deployed in Senegal will have to deal with an average annual temperature of 35 degrees and occasional tropical humidity, and Every single component must work as expected, no matter where it is placed.
The process of making sure everything goes according to plan begins at the Ericsson Test Technology Center in Rosenheim, Germany, where materials and components are continuously tested before being added to different prototypes and products, resulting in a validated design that is ready Production.
A major aspect of antenna testing is environmental durability, and wind loading is one of the most important factors in antenna design. Since the antennas are usually very exposed at the top of the mast, they need to be able to stand sturdy even when hit by extremely strong winds.
This presents all kinds of challenges – they have to be strong, but not so heavy that they require specialized transport or large steel structures to support them.
Every adjustment to shape or form must be tested to see if it is an improvement over previous designs, and wind load management is one of the areas that has seen some significant developments over the years.
Ericsson’s antennas are extensively tested in wind tunnels, and every subtle design tweak is scrutinized to see if it has the desired effect. These products are tested from all angles with airflow of different temperatures and humidity to see how well they cope.
The result is a wind load data sheet that allows Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to make informed decisions based on highly accurate test data.
Teamwork is the key to testing
Being part of a testing team can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding jobs at Ericsson – every day, highly skilled members come up with new ways to use state-of-the-art technology to detect weaknesses in any material or design.
Led by Christopher Lynch, Head of Validation and Test Systems, the team sets high standards for everything they do – in short, quality cannot be compromised.
“In order to be able to test, manufacture and deliver antennas and products with the highest demands on quality, performance and technology, we need to be able to test, verify and certify all the requirements of the product,” he said.
The antenna is designed to be a device that is both robust and sensitive, and although the tests were conducted in a laboratory environment, Christopher and his team went to great lengths to ensure the results were as realistic as possible.
Testing is performed in real time according to ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) 30 019 and IEC60068-2 standards.
Testing is usually carried out in three stages – incoming inspection, environmental and electrical testing, and final inspection.
During the input and final stages, the antenna is tested for PIM (Passive Intermodulation) and Scattering Parameters (S-Par), and a visual inspection is performed before and after the environmental and electrical sequence to see if there are any changes caused by the tests.
The tests themselves are comprehensive, measuring how the device responds to mechanical elements, temperature, humidity, wind loads, durability, water and dust ingress, sunlight and UV rays, salt spray, and toxic gases.
Shake without stirring
The final step in the process is usually shipping testing of the finished product to ensure it arrives at its final destination in perfect working condition.
Products are packaged and shaken repeatedly to ensure all components remain in place, even if they have to be transported by truck or van over rough terrain to their final destination.
Such tests often reveal different ways of packaging and securing shipping materials, making a valuable contribution to reducing waste.
The result becomes a roadmap
Do certain components and products fail certain tests? Absolutely – The focus of many tests is to continually improve and go beyond the point of failure, which is often well beyond their exposure outside the lab.
The test results provide valuable feedback to product designers and engineers, allowing them to make their future creations more durable, and give them a roadmap on how to do so.
The key to making this happen as quickly as possible is the early involvement of the Ericsson Test Technology Centre. Everything from development to prototype is meaningless if a critical component is not fit for purpose, so involving the test team early in the process ensures that the development team gets valuable early feedback to keep them on track .
The results of testing are not only high-performance durable products that maintain high levels of performance throughout their life cycles – it’s also contained in a wealth of data that CSPs can analyze and use when making investment decisions.
Adhering to acclaimed industry testing standards makes it easy to compare and contrast different solutions and see what is the best value for money in terms of capital and operating expenses.
When it comes to the value of the work done at the Ericsson Test Technology Center in Bavaria, don’t just take our word for it, get tested. Ask your local Ericsson representative for their results and see for yourself how extensive testing is not an obstacle to the road to success – rather, it is an essential part of the road to success.
Ericsson Antenna Systems
Ericsson Test Technology Center