If you build it, 5G innovation will come. T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) just opened its new device lab, a 20,000 square foot facility built to test smartphones and any other devices that connect to the Un-carrier’s network using any technology available, including 5G, 4G LTE, 3G, LAA, Narrowband IoT and more. The space is made up of more than a dozen testing areas where T-Mobile engineers analyze and fine-tune everything from network signal quality, voice call and sound quality, data throughput and video optimization … to in-depth testing of the latest software, applications and services. Devices are also pressure tested for durability — even the ability to withstand extremes like heat, water, tumbles and drops. The lab also includ es equipment designed specifically to test devices using low-band, mid-band and millimeter wave 5G spectrum — allowing engineers to tap into all of T-Mobile’s current and planned multi-band 5G network to ensure devices in customers’ hands deliver the best experience possible.
The new device lab is smack dab in the middle of T-Mobile’s Launch Pad innovation center in Bellevue, Washington, which also houses the Un-carrier’s network lab and the Tech Experience. The Launch Pad was built to bring device and network quality engineers together to innovate and refine technologies from end-to-end before delivering them to customers. And that’s critical when it comes to 5G with brand new technology in both the network and devices that needs to work together seamlessly for customers.
“5G will unlock SO MANY new capabilities and opportunities for innovation. And with that comes new complexities in delivering the technology to customers,” said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer at T-Mobile. “We’ve evolved in this new era of wireless to deliver continuous innovation and the best 5G experience possible — from the network to the devices in their hands — which is why I’m So. Damn. Proud. of this amazing team and cutting-edge lab.”
T-Mobile is in a unique position to roll out broad 5G to customers quickly with its dedicated low-band 600 MHz spectrum, and if regulators approve the merger with Sprint, New T-Mobile will have the critical mid-band spectrum to add greater capacity and supercharge that network. The new device lab is equipped with new, rigorous tests to ensure smartphones, IoT devices and any other connected devices take full advantage of the high-, mid- and low-band spectrum from New T-Mobile 5G, if the merger is approved.
Here are a few of the testing areas in the new device lab:
Sub-6 GHz 5G Radio Performance Chamber
The new Sub-6 GHz 5G Radio Performance Chamber helps engineers maximize T-Mobile’s network performance on mid- and low-band 5G smartphones. Armed with more than 50 antennas at different angles, it measures the level and quality of signal the device can send and receive, with the goal of maximizing how far it can go from a cell site and maintain a quality connection. This is key to ensuring T-Mobile’s nationwide 600 MHz 5G spectrum has the best and biggest coverage possible.
Millimeter Wave Antenna Range
The new 5G Antenna Range was built specifically to test 5G on millimeter wave (mmWave) high-band spectrum, which requires extreme precision when connecting to a device due to its very small wavelength. With a mmWave base station at one end of the room and a smartphone at the other, engineers ensure a quality signal is established and maintained as the phone is moving. With advanced features like massive MIMO and beamforming, mmWave antennas require more testing to ensure excellent hardware and software performance.
Multi-band 5G SmartLab
New multi-band 5G SmartLab Chambers support all of T-Mobile’s current and planned 5G spectrum. In each chamber, engineers put devices through the wringer testing different combinations of spectrum and technology to ensure devices are ready for the different scenarios customers encounter. Being able to simulate complex radio environments in the lab allows T-Mobile to maximize the performance and efficiency of its devices.
Software Performance Lab
The Software Performance Lab contains machines designed and patented by T-Mobile that each test hundreds of functions on every device, simulating a week’s worth of customer usage in just 24 hours. Everything from the keyboard, user interface speeds (how responsive the software is), battery life, music, voice calls, gaming, videos and photos, text messaging, e-mail, web browsing, app downloads and more. Devices must run continuously for 24 hours and perform hundreds of tasks without a single hiccup, stall, freeze or glitch.
Pressure Testing Room
Inside the Hardware Testing Room, T-Mobile tumbles, scratches, heats, freezes, submerges and drops devices to test their durability. Every device is exposed to extreme temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit at 90 percent humidity and as low as zero degrees for one week, submerged in water and tumbled in a meter-long metal box more than 100 times. Engineers run a rough metal edge across each device screen to test scratch resistance. The drop test machine drops devices onto concrete from 14 different angles from up to one meter high. Devices are run through the drop test machine four times and engineers check for hardware reliability as well as performance after each drop utilizing a high-speed camera to inspect exactly how the device behaves when it hits the ground.