AT&T, (s T) like all of the carriers, has embraced the business of providing network access to devices that aren’t branded with its name. Since 2005, the carrier has certified more than 1,000 devices, with most of those used in industrial settings. But now, as adding network connectivity to consumer devices becomes a must-have feature, AT&T is stepping up its efforts. It’s starting to sell netbooks with embedded connectivity in its stores, and its network will support upcoming e-readers from Sony and Plastic Logic. Earlier this month, AT&T announced the opening of its emerging devices test lab in Austin, Texas, and this week I got to take a first look at what’s inside.
I didn’t get to sneak a peak at any awesome devices, but I chatted with Cameron Coursey, assistant vice president of product realization at AT&T, about the lab itself and what AT&T hopes to do there. I also toured three of the eight testing stations. The stations, or “screen rooms,” are all shielded in copper screens to prevent interference and are named after famous radio scientists such as Tesla and Newton. Tests in this lab are linked to network performance and seek to ensure both that devices comply with FCC standards for radio emission and that they talk to the AT&T network rather than T-Mobile’s. With more than six different radio technologies from GPRS to high-speed HSPA to test for, getting a device certified on the network can take up to two weeks. Below is a glimpse as to what that entails.