One of the most important contractual items of a new or replacement radio communications system is the Acceptance Test.
Acceptance tests come in different names, styles, and formats, but in the end, the term “Final Acceptance” is meant to achieve one goal: validation that the radio system works where, when, and how it was designed to.
But to get to the nirvana of “final acceptance”, there are six key steps that need to be taken…
Stage 1: Factory Acceptance Test
The Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) is also be known as “box testing”. It’s performed on each system component (i.e. base stations, controllers, routers, subscriber radios, etc.) at the manufacturer’s location once equipment has been built. Performance specification sheets either ship with the equipment or are delivered to the project manager for incorporation into final system documentation.
Stage 2: Customer Acceptance Test
Customer Acceptance Testing or “System Staging”, is performed in a lab or warehouse environment on a full or a partial representative configuration of the system. This test demonstrates system features, functions, and failure scenarios in a controlled environment.
The CAT provides a unique opportunity to test subsystems that will be integrated into the radio communications systems. These subsystems can include dispatch consoles, special system features, and third-party equipment.
Standards compliance and/or interoperability tests with third party subscriber units can also be performed at this stage of testing.
Although network interfaces may be tested in this environment, the actual throughput and bandwidth constraints cannot be tested, only re-created.
Stage 3: Site Acceptance Test
The Site Acceptance Test is sometimes called “Power Up” or “Cold Start” tests. These are performed in the field, on a site-by-site basis, once all equipment designated for a particular location is installed and complete. These tests validate that all equipment at an individual site powers-up and operates as expected.
Site equipment can include radio base stations, radio controller equipment, RF antennas, transmission lines, ground lines, lightning arrestors, backhaul interfaces, network terminals, and/or console dispatch positions. Site locations are given designations based on their primary function – RF repeater site, radio controller site, dispatch center, etc.
Stage 4: Coverage Verification Test
The Coverage Verification Test, or simply “Coverage Testing”, is one of the most important tests in a radio communications system. It’s performed when one or more sites have completed Site Acceptance testing, and so have been fully installed with final Radio Frequency (RF) systems.
The Coverage Verification Test captures and analyzes actual RF transmission performance against the area performance and coverage guarantees stated in the system design in the negotiated contract. As such, last minute changes to an RF site have a direct impact on the performance of the radio system as a whole.
Stage 5: Final System Acceptance Test
Like the Coverage Verification Test, the Final System Acceptance Test is another key testing step. It’s performed in the field once all associated sites are installed (Site Acceptance Tests complete) and backhaul connectivity is stable and available to all associated system locations. This test demonstrates system features, functions, and failure scenarios in the system’s final configuration.
Stage 6: Burn In Period
The Burn In Period is also called “Final Sign Off”, “14 day”, or “30 day” test and kicks-off the period designated for customers to use the radio system and identify issues. Both major and minor issues are recorded in a Final Acceptance “punch list” – major punch list items can restart the entire test time period.
Once Final Acceptance Testing is complete – with no major punch list items identified – the customer signs for Final Acceptance. The radio system is then moved into the warranty phase.