Acterna Goes on Show

Test-and-measurement system vendor Acterna Corp. is to launch a new division called Service Assurance Solutions (SAS) at the CeBIT 2005 tradeshow in Hanover, Germany, next week.

It also has three product launches in the pipeline for next week's OFC/NFOEC 2005 show in Anaheim, Calif.

The vendor has pulled together a team of 85 for its SAS division, with the aim of developing a package of test equipment and professional services that will win it more service provider business, especially as carriers start to recognize the major challenges they face as they try to deliver real-time IP services, such as VOIP and IP video, and meet their service-level agreements (SLAs).

The new division, targeted initially at Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers, will focus on helping carriers to measure IP quality of service (QOS), monitor service performance, and isolate network faults.

Roger Lingle, VP of marketing of the SAS division, says the division will be based around existing products and service capabilities initially, but that the new group will develop new solutions from that base. "IP service assurance is a major thrust of our carrier customers, and we needed to marry our existing solutions to our customers' needs in a more integrated way. The challenge will be taking these solutions and tackling the IP services market."

And who are these customers? Lingle cites BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) as a user of Acterna's DSL test products, adding that two other (unnamed) European service providers have signed up for the firm's broadband service assurance products in the past few months. He also says his firm's capacity planning and performance monitoring solutions are being used by "some very large North American ILECs."

But Lingle admits the SAS team has quite a challenge on its hands. Acterna, best known for its field test instruments, "is not well known in service assurance," he says. And Acterna's main competition will come from two test giants with established service assurance solutions, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) and Spirent plc (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT). (See Agilent Launches VOIP QOS Tool, Agilent Launches Tester, OSS, Spirent Expands VOIP Test Portfolio, and Spirent Launches SmartSight OSS.)

But there are plenty of other firms out there vying for IP service assurance business (see Empirix Hammers on Carriers' Doors, Tektronix Acquires Inet for $325M, VOIP Healthcare Takes Hold, and Brix Unveils VOIP Line Prequalifier).

Lingle, though, says Acterna can see off the slew of "niche players that have a single-point solution. The opportunities for those companies are limited. Our differentiator will be delivering a full triple-play instrument for VOIP, video, and data. We have the ability to deliver a view of all these services," he claims.

And while Lingle does his best to convince the CeBIT crowds of Acterna's service assurance prowess, his colleagues will be throwing the covers off three new products at the OFC/NFOEC 2005 show: two new handheld testers, one for FTTx and one for optical loss testing; the ONT-506, a six-slot desktop, or portable, version of the firm's existing next-generation Sonet/SDH tester; and an integrated Ethernet and Sonet/SDH field test product, which the vendor claims is an industry first.

So what else is happening in the wonderful world of telecom testing? Quite a lot, actually. Here's a rundown of the latest hot snippets:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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