Some wise soul once said, "One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions." Fortunately for today's tech world, there are companies that are both expert and accurate. They have high-precision tools that measure network performance and service quality to the Nth-degree and they are masters at testing telecom equipment, networks and software to ensure greater reliability and dependability.
Measurement and testing require some next-level engineering skills. The companies listed and described below stand out from a crowded field because they have mastered many, if not most, of those skills.
The eight finalists for Most Outstanding Test & Measurement Vendor this year are:
- Keysight Technologies
- Spirent Communications
- Tutela Technologies
- Viavi Solutions
The Leading Lights winners, along with this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced online on August 21 during a special video presentation on www.lightreading.com, one month before the start of the Big 5G Event.
Here's a closer look at the eight companies in the running for outstanding test and measurement vendor this year:
EXFO cracked the finalist list for the first time in three years because of some impressive product launches over the past 12 months. Most notably, the Canadian company rolled out its Nova Adaptive Service Assurance (A|SA) product in February 2020. Described as the industry's first service assurance-centric automation platform, Nova A|SA was developed specifically to support the delivery of 5G signals.
The new platform integrates data from relevant layers, domains, services and data sources, from both EXFO and third-party service- assurance solutions, to give operators timely data to detect, diagnose and resolve – or predict and prevent – network-based events that could adversely affect customers. EXFO developed Nova A|SA in response to the exponential growth in network traffic, of which more than 80% (such as OTT video) is now encrypted. The high throughput of 5G makes it even harder for older monitors to keep up. More users, connections and services, entangled in more complicated networks, further obscure problems with performance.
EXPO's solution uses dynamic probing and multi-vendor telemetry analysis to break through the morass, adapting in real-time to what it measures across a network's service and user domains. Instead of using scripts to automate repetitive tasks, Nova A|SA adapts its actions and the data it collects to the current context. It uses decisional logic to dynamically adjust, instantiate, scale and sequence measurements to provide a clear view of impairments as they occur.
As 5G technology rolls out throughout the planet, Infovista has enhanced its TEMS Network Testing Portfolio to protect connectivity for two main groups: traditional network operators who need 5G solutions for testing and optimizing networks, and industries that need help managing and ensuring application connectivity. Making the Leading Lights finalist list for the third year in a row, Infovista says TEMS also offers multiple rapid-support 5G solutions for mobile network operators, enabling them to walk-test, drive-test and dynamically analyze new mobile 5G devices and networks under real-life conditions.
Another new entry, TEMS for Industry 4.0 solutions, aids industries that use connected mobile applications for automation, remote control and Industrial IoT – allowing them to promptly view, identify and resolve connectivity-related issues, thus boosting productivity, process performance and reliability.
An even more forward-looking product is Infovista's TEMS for Connected Car, a connectivity testing-and-monitoring solution for connected-car applications and use cases, another area growing fast with the advent of 5G. Connected-application providers for automotive OEMs can get the visibility and data they need to efficiently manage 3G, 4G and 5G connectivity and enhance the customer experience.
Keysight Technologies is all about wireless. The T&M giant's design and test software, combined with its test and measurement instruments, accelerate wireless product development – from the physical layer to the application layer, and across simulation, verification, manufacturing, deployment and optimization.
Keysight says its PathWave Test integrated software suite plays a critical role in 5G and mmWave design, verification and test methodologies, streamlining the workflow from system-level modeling to RF/MW circuit co-simulation and analysis. Keysight is also collaborating with Nokia on a new software approach using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced data analytics in the company's 5G base-station manufacturing processes to improve test efficiency.
In 2019, Keysight announced the first single-box, multi-channel solution for wideband mmWave measurements. Based on the UXR-Series of oscilloscopes, it aims to deliver fast, affordable, coherent analysis for wideband measurements up to 110 GHz. This solution is spurring development of next-gen mmWave communications, satellite communications and radar applications. To keep up with the evolving needs of advanced wireless communications design validation test (DVT) and manufacturing, Keysight also recently launched the Keysight N9021B MXA X-Series Signal Analyzer. It provides DVT and manufacturing engineers with superior phase-noise performance at higher frequencies.
Although the customer may always be right, they are too often frustrated to find out their network is slow or even down well before the service provider figures it out. Knowing that too many services are delivered without proper service-activation testing, resulting in costly field work (and unhappy customers), Netrounds engineers seek to validate that services have been switched on properly and reassure customers that changes in configuration will not harm their operations.
So what's the solution? With Netrounds, it means automating the testing of each new delivery and service change, thus avoiding having to send engineers on-site and placing more demands on customer-service desks. With its Automated Service Delivery Testing for SD-WAN and Global VPNs, Netrounds says CSPs can easily implement Zero Touch Testing so that their service delivery teams are able to troubleshoot service issues remotely. For example, one large operator has fully automated its service-activation testing and troubleshooting, lowering operating expenses and raising customer satisfaction.
Thanks to this automation, Netrounds says services are now delivered right the first time, every time, with failed-delivery rates reduced by 13% -- all because the software was able to discover, troubleshoot and resolve network misconfigurations along the end-to-end service path before the customer logged on. Netrounds' solution is fully automated and orchestrated and the company claims its solution works today with any network topology and use case, and will transition well to tomorrow's dynamic, software-driven networks.
Operators need to run profitable, efficient and competitive networks, even as traffic piles up due to video, gaming and social sharing services while encryption and cloud apps cause more technical disruptions. The pressure is on, but ActiveLogic, Sandvine's new, hyperscale data plane, is designed to take that pressure off.
The final piece in Sandvine's Active Network Intelligence portfolio, ActiveLogic is the foundation of all the Canadian company's solutions. It aims to solve complex problems, while delivering high quality-of-experience (QoE) for all networks -- especially those of considerable size (100,000 subscribers or more).
ActiveLogic is powered by a unique machine-learning traffic classification engine: The ANI Classification Engine (ACE). ACE categorizes traffic based solely on behavioral analysis, delivering granular and accurate classification even when traffic is encrypted. Sandvine says this cloud-optimized, CUPS-compliant solution can deliver hyperscale performance regardless of deployment, access technology or network type (e.g., 4G, 5G, DOCSIS, FTTX).
Cracking the Leading Lights finalist list for the fourth year in a row because of its general market leadership, Spirent has been making waves across a diversified customer base, spanning operators, network equipment manufacturers and device makers. The company has been plowing profits into R&D in such key areas as 5G, cloud and cybersecurity, applying lab test expertise to live network-operations assurance. Working at the frontlines of 5G, it has also been cutting deals in field testing, automation and service assurance; device security and performance tests; modelling and testing new 5G radio frequency ranges and antenna technology; and multi-vendor validation.
Spirent has entered university/research markets with a 5G digital twin solution deployed by the University of Warwick, introduced a 5G device testing product and come out with the first 5G mobile device test system solution in use by tier-one chipset vendors. Now the vendor is extending its expertise into services, after closing a large test-as-a-Service managed-service deal with a major mobile provider automating multivendor testing.
The company boasts that more than 70 service providers, network equipment makers and research center labs have chosen its 5G mobile core validation solutions. Spirent has also delivered what it considers to be the first 5G service assurance solution, using test agents for end-to-end performance monitoring, to a major US service provider to accelerate rollout and compare 4G and 5G performance.
A newcomer to the Leading Lights competition, Tutela Technologies bills itself as "the industry's leading crowdsourced test and measurement company." It corrals data from hundreds of millions of smartphones (and their users) through an intuitive GPU-powered visualization tool, offering customers quick, easy, and actionable insights that they can use to improve their mobile networks.
Acquired last fall by Comlinkdata -- a provider of telecom data and insights specializing in subscriber behavior -- Tutela measures end-to-end signals from user devices to popular CDNs, thus helping operators, regulators and others quickly understand and take action based on real-world information. The company offers precision and detail with over 180 KPIs, ranging from network speeds and latency to signal strength and video performance. It gathers this data through passive tests, eliminating biases that occur in user-instigated tests or through pre-set, drive-testing routes. Its analytics interface then overlays this data to benchmark performance against competition at a hyper-local level, making complicated optimization decisions simpler.
Most recently, Tutela introduced machine-learning algorithms to enhance its datasets and created indoor record-classification and cell-site geolocation capabilities. The company is also heavily involved in 5G deployments, offering operators insight into areas with high data usage or congestion so that they can make cost-effective decisions.
Could this finally be the lucky year for Viavi Solutions, which has now made the Leading Lights finalist list at least four years in a row? Founded as Wandel & Goltermann in Germany nearly a century ago, Viavi offers a comprehensive portfolio of network test, activation and assurance instruments and software. The company's optical and 5G expertise, coupled with an aggressive acquisition strategy, has enabled it to deliver a broad spectrum of solutions — from 5G deployment and activation, to the industry's first test suite for O-RAN specifications, to fiber test tools; from 3D sensing filters for smartphones and cars, to IoT monitoring and assurance.
Even under pandemic conditions, Viavi has maintained continuity in frontline support through remote testing capabilities for tower and broadband technicians and first- responder communications, as well as network and security management for remote workers and contact-tracing analytics for service providers.
Further, Viavi has continued to amass expertise in leading communications and optical technologies through investment in R&D and the acquisition of key technologies from companies like OCLI, Network Instruments, Agilent, Arieso, Trilithic, and Cobham AvComm and Wireless. As a result, Viavi has become a market-share leader in the 5G lab validation, optical transport network lab test, optical manufacturing test, Ethernet field test, fiber field test, DOCSIS and DSL test segments.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading