Light Reading

Leading Lights Finalists 2014: Outstanding Test & Measurement Vendor

Ray Le Maistre

To recognize the critical role that telecom test and measurement vendor play in the communications networking industry, Light Reading this year introduced the Outstanding Test & Measurement Vendor category to its annual awards program, the Leading Lights. (See Leading Lights 2014: The Finalists.)

The category was created to recognize the telecom test and measurement vendor that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, helps set the industry trends, makes investors proud, and makes employees happy.

Here are the seven companies that made the shortlist (in alphabetical order):

Accedian Networks Inc.
Long-time Carrier Ethernet sector vendor Accedian Networks Inc. has, in its own words, "evolved into a core-to-edge monitoring solution provider for mobile backhaul, business services, financial WANs, and data center interconnect," with its Performance Assurance solutions now its primary business. Its V-NID platform, in conjunction with elements, probes, pluggable SFP modules, and virtualized instrumentation, have won the company business worldwide. The vendor has had particular success with Tier 1 mobile operators in Asia-Pacific for cell site monitoring, and has also won significant business for its backhaul network monitoring capabilities.

And now Accedian has prepared itself for the assurance challenges that will come with the introduction of SDN capabilities, teaming up with Cyan Blue Planet to help deliver an integrated proposition. (See Accedian Taps Into SDN and Cyan Forms SDN Ecosystem.)

Apkudo LLC
Baltimore, Maryland-based Apkudo is a mobile device quality assurance specialist that helps "mobile service providers, manufacturers and application vendors pre-test their offerings so they can be brought to market more efficiently, and provide the best possible user experience to improve customer satisfaction and reduce device returns."

Apkudo's testing methodology, which aims to deliver insights normally only gained from post-launch field testing, goes beyond simple pass/fail benchmarks to "a better understanding of how the device, application or accessory will function and how it compares to others in the market." The company "seeks to find and address issues a user would have found post-launch, thereby reducing device returns and increasing customer satisfaction. One carrier estimated annual $500,000 savings in device returns from one device," according to Apkudo.

The company, which says it is profitable, is working closely with the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) on the "Device Hub," a centralized resource that enables CCA carrier members to "more efficiently and economically manage their device portfolios from end-to-end by providing a platform to interact, collaborate and share information."

JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) provides a broad range of test tools and systems for "virtually every network environment, from the lab and manufacturing stage right into the home and enterprise."

JDSU is currently very excited about its xSIGHT customer experience assurance solution, which was announced during Mobile World Congress. It is "specifically designed for the nuances that 4G/LTE bring to network planning and visibility… xSIGHT shows a precise view of the network in real time via an intelligence platform that lets operators of 4G/LTE networks access and analyze value-based data from a wide variety of sources across the entire network." JDSU adds that the system is not just a "patchwork view of network performance, customer experience and service performance separately," but instead "combines all of that for a holistic view of issues, all in real-time."

The ability to develop xSIGHT came in part from the acquisition of OSS firm Trendium in January this year, a move that also instantly bagged it a major deal with a major mobile operator. (See JDSU Buys More 4G SPIT Smarts.)

JDSU also acquired Network Instruments in late 2013 to bolster its portfolio in the enterprise, data center, and cloud networking test markets. (See JDSU Acquires Network Instruments.)

NetScout Systems Inc.
NetScout Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: NTCT), which sells network monitoring switches and supporting assurance and analytics software to network operators and enterprises, has been making great strides during the past year with its nGeniusONE platform.

Using the company's Adaptive Session Intelligence technology, this system monitors data and control plane traffic and correlates data, signaling and service enabler performance metrics to reveal critical interactions and interdependencies that affect service performance. By doing that it "provides comprehensive support for mobile and fixed line voice services, including VoLTE, Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), VoIP and legacy circuit switched voice deployments," and delivers a "service-centric perspective of networks, services, devices and subscribers" to multiple teams (operations, customer support, network planning, and so on).

That approach is chiming with the needs of 4G LTE operators, which are driving new and enhanced business opportunities for a company that already boasts 165 operator customers. (See NetScout Ramps as 4G Takes Off.)

S3 Group
Video test specialist S3 Group automates testing processes across multiple video-related devices (set-top boxes, gateways, connected TVs) through its StormTest Development Center platform, which "integrates with head-end software to validate cable, satellite, telco and OTT services across a variety of connected devices." StormTest Development Center is used by more than 50 digital TV companies, including BSkyB, BT, Liberty Global, StarHub, and Swisscom. (See BSkyB Validates HD Platform With S3 Group .)

S3 says the up to 80% of tests can be automated in StormTest, enabling customers to dramatically reduce test times and make more efficient use of test engineers.

The company, which is increasing its revenues and is already profitable, says that during the past year it has enhanced StormTest by enabling HD image handling, adding a large-scale 64-device testing unit, and introducing a new user interface called Navigator that "virtually eliminates the maintenance effort associated with maintaining those tests. Development and maintenance of a robust navigation framework consumes on average 30% of test development resources… with the Navigation feature, S3 Group virtually eliminate this effort." (See S3 Group Announces North America Expansion.)

Spirent Communications plc
Spirent Communications plc (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT), one of the best-known names on the fixed and wireless telecom test scene, is making a major play for the VoLTE test business that is set to ramp up this year and grow beyond 2014 as mobile operators launch their 4G voice services.

The vendor has developed a suite of VoLTE testing solutions for infrastructure, devices and service experience, with its tools spanning the design, development and ultimate launch of a commercial VoLTE-enabled networks and devices. Spirent is particularly focused on LTE device testing, and claims to have "field test solutions that can test any device, on any network, anywhere in the world." (See Spirent Tests VoLTE in the Labs.)

The vendor is particularly proud of Quantum, an automated system for "measuring and driving improvements to the battery life of mobile devices." Spirent says it's "the industry's first user experience analytics system to automatically execute consumer use cases on a mobile device while performing synchronized power consumption measurements."

Spirent has had plenty of other things going on in the past year too. (See Spirent Buys CEM Specialist and Spirent Dumps Its CEO.)

Tollgrade Communications Inc.
Broadband access test specialist Tollgrade Communications Inc. has latched onto the trend for virtualization with the launch (in October 2013) of its Virtual Broadband Technician (VBT) product for broadband service providers. Used by field technicians, the VBT pinpoints the causes of problems at the customer premises (in the home or local access network) that are otherwise difficult to diagnose and that can disrupt or slow down broadband services. It does this by performing 50 tests, diagnosing the problem, and confirming when the problem is fixed. (See Tollgrade Takes Its VBT Test Tool Into the Home.)

Tollgrade claims that "by detecting conditions that other test solutions miss and normalizing the repair process, the VBT pays for itself after the first saved dispatch while improving customer satisfaction."

The company also developed the VBT Manager, a software interface to the VBT that runs on field technicians' laptops. This enables service providers to aggregate all of the results from tests performed by the VBT in the field and transmit these results into the operations center and into the service provider's OSS.

With fixed broadband so pervasive in developed markets, and delivering significant revenues to network operators, improving efficiencies and improving customer satisfaction is high on the agenda of network operators desperate to improve margins and reduce churn.

The Leading Lights winners and 2014 Hall of Fame inductees will be unveiled at the Leading Lights awards dinner, to be held the evening of Tuesday, June 17 at Chicago's Adler Planetarium. (For more details, see Bumper Year for the Leading Lights Awards.)

Stick around on Wednesday for the second day of Light Reading's Big Telecom Event, taking place at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on June 17-18. (Details and the agenda are on our show site, Big Telecom Event.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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