Call for bids: Test labs to assess performance of mobile phones within car hands-free systems

ITU is calling for test labs to bid for the opportunity to become ITU’s preferred facility for the testing of mobile phones’ compatibility with Bluetooth-enabled car hands-free telephone systems. The successful bidder will test the performance of mobile phones in the car hands-free environment on the request of any mobile phone manufacturer interested in publicizing their products’ conformance with ITU standards. The deadline for bids is 6 October 2015. All details relevant to the process can be found here.

The performance testing will apply the transmission-performance verification tests detailed by Chapter 12 of Recommendations ITU-T P.1100 and P.1110, standards for narrowband and wideband communications in motor vehicles.

Phones that pass the Chapter 12 tests perform best in the car hands-free environment. Phones are required to disable certain signal-processing functionality – such as noise reduction, echo cancellation and voice amplification – when connected via Bluetooth to a car’s hands-free terminal (HFT). The Chapter 12 tests of ITU-T P.1100 and P.1110 determine whether a mobile phone has acknowledged its connection to a car’s HFT and performed as expected in response.

Widespread conformance with ITU-T P.1100 and P.1110 will eliminate the need for automakers to perform similar tests, and will enable them to recommend that their customers consider purchasing mobile phones proven to achieve the highest levels of conversation quality when connected to their cars’ HFTs.

Background: Mobile phones’ incompatibility with car HFTs is a longstanding problem that will be solved through improved cooperation between automakers and mobile phone manufacturers.

The great variance in the behaviour of phones when operating within car HFTs has resulted in automakers dedicating a significant volume of time and money to the testing of mobile phones, producing test results that remain valid only until the new software for mobile phones or the next generation of mobile devices come to market.

An ITU test event on the topic in May 2014 found that an overwhelming majority of the phones tested would cause shortfalls in the audio quality of hands-free-supported conversations. Of the phones tested, roughly 30 per cent passed the tests, with the remaining 70 per cent found to produce performance degradation that would be noticeable to drivers and conversational partners. Serious faults were observed in the worst-performing phones; some causing significantly distorted speech, others completely failing to acknowledge that they had been connected to a car’s HFT. Experts assert that quality degradation of this extent could give rise to safety risks by encouraging drivers to handle their phones while driving. For more information, read the ITU Press Release reporting the test event’s results.

Following the test event, ITU published a ‘whitelist’ of mobile phones compatible with car HFTs. The list was successful in drawing attention to the challenge, providing a snapshot of the industry in May 2014 to highlight how few phones performed as required. The whitelist is now of little value to consumers in the market for new mobile phones, with today’s market very different to what it was a year ago. The selection of a lab to perform on-demand testing will expand the scope of the whitelist, creating an up-to-date reference of all phones on the market optimized for high-quality voice conversations in the car hands-free environment.

Learn more about ITU-T Study Group 12, ITU’s standardization expert group responsible for ‘Performance, Quality of Service and Quality of Experience’.

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