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What’s in the box?

Filling in the boxes on a clean sheet of paper requires disciplined systems. By Graham Pitcher.

Consumer electronics is typified by high volumes, short product shelf life and high time to market pressure. Get it right and you profit; get it wrong and you imperil your company.

The mobile phone business is a leading example of this. Whilst the market in the UK is pretty close to being saturated, a large proportion of existing users upgrade the phones on a regular basis; their aim being to take advantage of the latest features – often as soon as possible. Camera phones are just on example of this rapid adoption of new technology.

Whilst there is high pressure on handset manufacturers to keep the leading edge moving forward at a rapid clip, network operators and infrastructure manufacturers are under equal pressure to ensure the technology 'behind the scenes' supports what you have in your hand.

Ubinetics is one of the companies developing equipment that helps infrastructure vendors and operators test their systems before they go 'live'.
The company is a product of the Cambridge wireless communications community. Stirling Essex, senior vice president of strategic marketing, noted: "We were established in 1999 to exploit 3G IP developed by PA Consulting. Although PA had been working on 3G for a couple of years, it decided it couldn't exploit the technology itself effectively." Ubinetics also has another string to its bow: providing IP and modules for use in 3G handsets. According to Essex: "Our technology, along with Texas Instruments chipsets, is in around 2million handsets in China."

But technology for proving and optimising networks is a major focus. One of the company's older products is the TM100 test mobile, which can make and receive circuit switched voice and packet data calls. However, with mobile communications now poised to move beyond 3G with such developments as high speed download packet access, HSDPA, a new test mobile was needed. That new platform is the TM500.

Essex said: "Having an established product helps when you're designing something new. TM100 was used by a lot in the early days of 3G. We knew what we were doing, but we also knew the product had come to the end of its development potential. It couldn't be expanded any further and we needed a new platform."

So how does a company like Ubinetics establish the architecture for a new product, particularly in a rapidly moving technology sector such as mobile communications?

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Graham Pitcher

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