Spirent Communications and TestQuest will announce Tuesday plans to work together to make it easier for carriers to test handsets and mobile data services before they sell them to customers.A combination of hardware and software tools from Spirent and TestQuest will allow carriers to test the performance of services all the way from sending handset to receiving handset in a lab. With the tools, carriers can automate dialing, emulate a cellular network and monitor what a subscriber would see on a handset, said Nigel Wright, director of strategic planning at Spirent Communications' wireless unit. For example, the test system will be able to command one handset to send a message to another and then detect whether that message was displayed correctly on the receiving handset.Spirent Communications, in Rockville, Maryland, is a division of Spirent. The companies will demonstrate an automated test system, which makes use of the combined Spirent and TestQuest technologies at the CDMA Americas Congress, which begins Tuesday in San Diego.Typically, carriers have had to set up a network and have testing staff carry out test scripts to try different combinations of handsets, software and infrastructure, Wright said. As handsets and applications have proliferated and become more complex, this has become a time-consuming process. Carriers are overwhelmed, he said."They have run testing to the extent that they're able to within their current acceptance test environment, but their concern is that with such a big flood of network content coming down the pipe, without a formal process ... they're going to drown under the test requirements for these applications," Wright said. For example, because most handset vendors have a different test system for every handset, some carriers have 35 or 40 different tools to control handsets in a test.That in turn causes concern about their larger business case for generating higher revenue through mobile data services, he added."They're very concerned that if users are not delighted with (mobile data services), that that business case won't pan out," he said.Spirent currently is focused on testing 3G CDMA2000 1x handsets and networks, as well as 2G CDMA systems. In the second half of next year it plans to expand its offerings to include test systems for the next generation of CDMA, called CDMA2000 1xEV-DO (Evolution-Data Only), and to UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System).Testing initially will be aimed at SMS, with test systems becoming commercially available late in the first quarter. The next target is MMS (Multimedia Message Service), for which test systems will be out in the second quarter. SMS allows users to send text messages as long as 160 characters from one phone to another, and MMS allows them to include images and video and audio clips along with a text message. Mobile customers should see the fruits of the testing, in the form of services reliably working as intended, in the second half of next year, Wright said.