Assessing the Quality of Experience (QoE) of 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile networks in a specific area by measuring throughput, network coverage, bandwidth, is of paramount importance to ensure a high user quality experience on the network. Drive testing captures accurate real-world data of the RF environment when placed under a certain set of environmental and network conditions. New-age modern network simulation techniques made it possible for network engineers to create a mathematical model to evaluate network performance. Though it is true to some extent, drive test in telecom remains the core of the network evaluation process to evaluate how the user experience the network environment continuously.

So, drive test in telecom is the best possible solution for mobile network operators (CSPs) to collect signal strength, mobile network latency, voice call KPIs etc. along with GPS coordinates and constantly improve the network.

RF drive test tools are also used to check coverage criteria of the installed cell towers and to evaluate if the cell tower sectors are providing the intended area of coverage as designed by Telcos. Data collected is stored in the log files and are further evaluated on RF logs post-processing tools which usually have GIS-based visualization capabilities.

3E app converts any Android smartphone to a RF testing tool on the mobile network and generates detailed data points. Unlike traditional RF testing equipment 3E app also displays Information about 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G drive test parameters from the end-user perspective without any dependency to purchase additional hardware from vendor. Like all the other RF drive test software 3E app also performs drive test on the mobile network and post-drive test analysis using web-based interactive Google maps UI and optimize the cellular network by identifying poor QoE areas and except the fact that there is no manual post processing required and hefty licensing costs.

3E solution can be used in the following use cases as 4G network tester, 4G LTE tester, 4G test equipment, 4G testing tool, 4G VOLTE Tester, 4G LTE test equipment, LTE testing tool and drive test 4G LTE.

‘Minimization of Drive Tests (MDT)’ concept has been defined in Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specifications standard. Telecom companies apply this technique in planning, optimization, and troubleshooting methods and examine network quality after upgradation and reconfiguration of network. Since drive testing is time consuming, expensive, and often fails to recognize the failure, embracing MDT approach helps operators generate reports, example on call setup and coverage issues, clubbed with real-life Radio Access Network (RAN) analytics from drive test provides detailed information on network performance.

Drive Test Analysis for 4G LTE networks

Drive test mainly include identifying areas with no 4G connectivity, handover issues, call drops, low throughputs, no data etc. Modern RF-based 4G drive test tools are useful in determining such network issues and to enhance the network performance for their users.

User Experience of Network in specific geographical locations i.e. hotspots can be discovered with drive test analysis. Mobile network operators are carrying out network-based tests for measuring coverage and quality of the cellular network signal, mobile network latency, voice/data services, user QoE and evaluate the performance KPIs using cellular drive test equipment.

Classification of Drive Test in Telecom industry

Most of the MNOs depend on real-life user experience KPIs based on performed drive tests and benchmark user QoE on the mobile network. Nevertheless, traditional drive test involves huge investment in getting RF drive test tools and sometimes incapable of mass deployment to get large impression of mobile network around the coverage area.

RF drive testing can be classed into following use cases:

  • Single site verification (SSV) or Single Cell Function Test (SCFT)
  • Multiple site verification (MSV) or cluster drive test
  • Operator benchmarking drive test (Market level drive test)

Single Site Verification (SSV) or Single Cell Function Test (SCFT)

SSV drive test or SCFT drive test is all about performing 5G/4G/3G drive test analysis on a particular site (Example newly installed cell tower) and this is usually performed by drive testing or by walk testing around the site.

In site level testing, site is ready for performing SSV testing after completion of engineering, installation and integration and no active alarms are observed. The main aim of SSV testing is to validate functional performance of the site and identify/flag workmanship issues, product issues & provisioning issues before turning the site on for commercial users. Such kind of SSV testing for site entails stationery and mobility drive tests conducted using smartphone app-based solution. 3E app is an Android based application that can perform SSV tests for a site and includes CSFB Calls, Volte Calls, Ping Test, FTP file Uploads and Downloads etc.

Single cell functionality test or single site verification is a static test which collects each sector information of the cell site in terms of coverage and quality parameters depend upon the technology like 3G, 4G LTE, 5G in the cellular mobile network. We, at 3E, have always been at the forefront to assist our customers with their SSV network testing needs. Our users have been using this app to make their LTE drive test procedure easy and gain desired output.

As the name suggests, network tests like drive test 3G, 4G LTE drive test, 5G drive test when performed on a group of cells is termed as a ‘Cluster drive test’ or ‘MSV’.

Initially, in traditional drive test, network testers used to drive along target routes to collect information regarding coverage data through various iterations and field tests with cellular rf drive test equipment. But, as telecom businesses are expanding, it is cumbersome to refine expanded networks in terms of size, capacity, and number of users. With cluster drive test, operators can perform network tests by taking a group of cells and deploy it in a particular location and investigate the network accordingly.

Cluster drive test is executed when the network is in active mode (i.e., providing service to customers) and inspect the interference amid two cells and handover taking place or not. Network parameter details like Drive Route, Quality plots of RSRQ, SINR, PUSCH, Coverage plot, Download and Upload throughput is accumulated. Operators use this data to get output which is further utilized to optimize the mobile network and deliver efficient service to users. 3E’s active RF tester app for 5G, 4G, 3G, 2G drive testing is compatible and deployed on a variety of available Android smart phones for cluster (mass) drive testing, producing crowd sourced QoE data.

Multiple site verification or 4G LTE drive test must have measurements of radio parameters such as RSRP, RSRQ, SINR, PCI, EARFCN, and WCDMA drive test parameters like RSCP, RSSI, ECNO, PSC, UARFCN etc. at least at basic level to identify primary network issues. Implementation of cell lock / band lock feature allows RF engineers to measure all these parameters on selected bands as per their requirements.

3E app can help you perform cluster pre and post drive tests based on 2G 3G 4G drive test parameters under voice and data services. Using this app, users can conduct drive test for various tests like Ping test, Call test, Speed test, HTTP test, SMS test and Stream test and analyze the drive data for QoE monitoring. The app enables users to generate cluster drive-based reports daily or hourly basis as per the client requirement for QoE monitoring. Conducting drive test can resolve ARPU customer complaints based on network usage and cost optimization techniques.

Operator benchmarking drive test (Market level drive test)

In this test, comparison is done in terms of number of call drops, data throughputs, and other key KPIs on 4G / 5G networks between various network operators and analyze who is providing better user experience. Usually, market level drive testing is performed by operators themselves/ independent bodies/ telecom regulators. For example, telecom regulators from various countries constantly perform market level drive test to identify underperforming operators whose user experience KPIs are not meeting regulatory requirements.

‘Market level drive test’ analysis is carried out based on a particular market or an entire geographical area with the use of 5G, 3G, CDMA, LTE drive test tools. Operators conduct drive testing on an area to analyze user experience with respect to other cellular service providers. Market level drive testing can identify their strengths, example high data throughput compared to competitors, and this provides them an opportunity to upsell their services by advertisement campaigns.

Drive test engineers / RAN testing engineers can perform drive test by locking on to a specific cell, for instance, 4G LTE cell in their test location and select the desired bandwidth such as LTE 40, LTE 25, and so on. Here is the procedure to unlock cell lock / band lock feature on your Android smartphone and test with 3E solution.