Testing MMS Functionality in Mobile Phones

Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:45am


Thorough and accurate Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) testing is critical to the successful deployment of any mobile phone offering a MMS capability.

By Scott Grimmett, Agilent Technologies

Over the years, the mobile-phone usage model has changed quite dramatically. No longer is it used solely for its voice services. Instead, the mobile phone is now being

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Figure 1. Sending and receiving a MMS message requires multiple steps and utilizes both SMS and WAP technology.
used for a growing number of social and mobile, data-centric applications. In fact, in the past 10 years alone, the phone's Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging capability has become increasingly popular. Today, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) has further captured the consumer's attention with its ability to add pictures, music, images, graphics, and even ringtones to the original SMS text messaging capability.

As the popularity of MMS messaging rises, it will be incumbent on mobile-phone developers to ensure this capability meets the high standard of quality and reliability that today's consumers demand. Developers therefore, will need to thoroughly test the handset's MMS messaging functionally before it is released to manufacturing and subsequently, customers. Of course, this task may not be quite as easy as it sounds. In theory, MMS is similar to SMS, leading the developer to falsely assume that by testing a phone's SMS functionally, its MMS functionally will also be adequately verified. However, if only the SMS is checked, then the additional technologies in an MMS message will go unverified.
Why Test MMS Functionality
To better understand the need to test MMS - in addition to SMS - functionality, it's important to first review how a mobile phone sends and receives a MMS message.
Sending a MMS message requires the following steps:
• A data connection between the phone and the Multimedia Messaging Service Center (MMSC) is established. For GSM, this connection is usually with Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) over GPRS.

• Once the data connection is established, the mobile phone sends the MMS message payload over the data connection to the MMSC using the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and HTTP POST. The MMS message payload includes a header that defines the message properties, a list of recipients for the message and the message content which can consist of such things as pictures, sounds and text. The payload protocol is published in MMS Encapsulation Protocol specification by the Open Mobile Association (

• After the MMSC receives the payload, it stores the MMS message, making it available via a URL link. Further, the MMSC routes an MMS notification message to the recipients.
To receive a MMS message:

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Figure 2. MMS test set-up.
• The MMSC creates a MMS notification message which contains a URL pointer to the message content, as well as the header information about the MMS message. The MMS notification message is sent using a WAP push to the recipient's mobile phone over SMS.

• When the recipient mobile phone receives the MMS notification message, it establishes a data connection with the MMSC. Again, for GSM, this connection is usually with TCP/IP over GPRS.

* The mobile phone then uses WAP and HTTP GET to retrieve the MMS message content using the URL pointer in the notification message.

As shown in Figure 1, MMS utilizes both SMS and WAP technology to transfer the MMS message. While checking SMS functionally will verify that data can be sent and received over SMS, it ignores the WAP protocol, HTTP GET or POST, WAP push, and retrieval of the MMS message content using the URL pointer to the MMSC. Therefore, the mobile-phone developer must also thoroughly verify MMS functionality.
Testing MMS Functionality
Figure 3. In this graphic, each part of the MMS message content has been verified and has "Passed."
Testing the MMS functionality of a mobile phone requires a wireless communications test set, an MMSC, and MMS application test software (see Figure 2). The wireless communications test set acts as a gateway between the wireless network from the mobile phone and the Internet network from the MMSC. The MMSC must have the ability to accept message contents from an external application, put that content into an MMS message format and send it to the recipient mobile phone. It must also be able to receive a MMS message from a mobile phone, retrieve the message contents and deliver the contents to an external application. For its part, the MMS application test software must allow a user to enter the message contents and deliver that content to the MMSC. Further, it must be capable of receiving the message contents from the MMSC and providing a way for the user to verify message contents.

As an example of how to verify the MMS functionality using the test setup previously described, consider the following scenario. Assume that the test setup consists of the Agilent 8960 Wireless Communications Test Set, the NowSMS Gateway (acting as the MMSC), and the Agilent N5970A Interactive Functional Test (IFT) software (acting as the MMS application test software). Using this setup, the mobile phone's ability to send a MMS message can be tested according to the following steps:

Step 1: A user creates a MMS message on the phone. The message may contain text, pictures, video, audio, etc.

Step 2: The user sends a MMS message to the MMS application test software via the wireless communications test set and MMSC.

Step 3: Once the test software receives the message, its contents are displayed back to the user.

Step 4: To check that the contents were received properly, the user can verify the "sent contents" against the "received contents" using the test software. The N5970A IFT Software automatically makes this comparison and indicates, with a pass/fail, whether or not the message contents were received properly.

In Figure 3, the N5970A test software displays the message title, text, picture, and audio sent from the mobile phone. Each verified part of the mobile phone's MMS message is verified and denoted by a "Passed" indicator.

Next, the mobile phone's ability to receive a MMS message can be tested according to the following steps:

Step 1: The user creates the message content using the MMS application test software.

Step 2: The software sends the message to the mobile phone via the MMSC and the wireless communications test set.

Figure 4. The N5970A test software automatically sends multiple MMS messages to the mobile phone.
Step 3: Once the mobile phone receives the MMS message, the user can visually inspect the message contents to verify that it is the same as what was sent. If the mobile phone has commands to extract the message contents, a scripting tool in the test software can compare what was sent to what was received.

Step 4: To more thoroughly verify the mobile phone's MMS receive capability, the N5970A test software can be configured to automatically send multiple MMS messages for a predetermined amount of time (see Figure 4).

Since most of today's mobile phones don't just send and receive MMS messages, it is also desirable to check the phone's MMS functionality in conjunction with other phone features. Given the capability of the mobile phone, the MMS functionality should be checked simultaneously with such things as calls, FTP downloads, HTTP web browser downloads, and UDP uploads/downloads.

As MMS continues to grow in popularity, it will become increasingly important to completely verify the mobile phone's ability to send and receive MMS messages. As a result, thorough and accurate MMS testing - in addition to SMS testing - is absolutely critical to the successful deployment of any mobile phone offering a MMS capability. Using the right setup with measurement solutions that can test a mobile phone's MMS functionality, while simultaneously testing the phone's other features, can ensure that this task is as straightforward as possible; ultimately providing the consumer with a phone that demonstrates the highest level of quality and reliability.

Scott Grimmett is an R&D Engineer with Agilent Technologies' Mobile Broadband Division. He currently works as a development engineer on the Agilent N5970A Interactive functional test software where he is responsible for the networking, SMS, and MMS analysis capabilities of the product.

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