Technology Tip – August
brought to you by Donald
The proper test equipment is vital to designing, operating, and maintaining telecommunication networks. Various types of test equipment are used in trouble shooting, drive testing, data collection, antenna sweeps, equipment installation, integration, and cell site preventative maintenance. The results achieved from the testing typically determine the engineering, operations, or implementation decisions that need to be made.
Oftentimes the focus is toward ensuring the test procedures are standard operating procedures. What is commonly overlooked is the calibration of the test equipment. All test equipment requires calibration, especially when it has been stored and not been used in awhile. The electronics in the test equipment are designed to standard specifications to produce accurate results. Physical transportation, storage conditions (such as the high temperatures or humidity), and repeated use, may cause the test equipment to drift outside of the design specifications. Regular calibration is recommended by test equipment manufacturers based on the equipment type, and the typical use of the equipment under normal conditions. Most test equipment will have a calibration sticker identifying when it was last calibrated. Although, heavy use and extensive wear and tear from repeated travel, especially when commercially shipped, may make this date less of a gauge for recalibration.
Regardless of how knowledgeable an engineer or technician is, or how well the test procedures are followed, if the test equipment has not been calibrated recently (which seems to be more common than not), the test results produced from the test equipment may not be reliable. If the test equipment has not been calibrated for several years or since it was purchased, there is a high likelihood the results may not be accurate. If the results are inaccurate (which may not be obvious), you may replace certain components before it was necessary. Additional testing may also be performed that may not be needed. Consequently, both time and money may be spent that could have been avoided.
If you want to ensure accurate test results, look for the calibration sticker and verify that the test equipment has been recently calibrated within the specified calibration timeframe recommended by the manufacturer. If a calibration sticker cannot be found on the test equipment, contact the manufacturer for the recommended calibration timeframes and have the test equipment calibrated. Another method would be to keep a log for all equipment that needs calibrated, similar to what you would do for vehicles and other assets that need tracking for business purposes. This way you would be covered when the sticker cannot be located.
Verifying the calibration of any technical equipment before using it to perform critical tests can save valuable time, energy and money. In the end, the combination of technical expertise and bottom line results, is a win-win for every organization.