2006 Top Ten: Tasty Testing Tidbits
Say what you like about the test and measurement (T&M) sector -- and we know you do -- but we wouldn't be here without it. Not only is it a critical cog in the sometimes not so smooth-running wheel that is the telecom sector, but it has its own fair share of fun and excitement, too. Really.
Don't believe me? Then check out this T&M countdown, and tell me a pre-Crimbo boardroom coup at one of the sector's biggest players isn't more exciting than anything you'll do before breakfast time.
10. Pants on Fire
If the playground chant "Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!" was ever verbally hurled in your direction with just cause, then you may want to think twice before using Skype Ltd. as your primary mode of voice communications.
Because now there's a tool that analyzes the audio streams of a Skype call and measures the stress levels in the caller's voice. (See Skype App Detects Liars.)
High stress levels? Then you're telling some porky pies.
We're wondering if there's a test tool out there that can tell when we're making stuff up in our stories. Which we never do.
Moving swiftly on...
9. EXFO Hits the January Sales
If you haven't bought a company this year, then where were you?
Merger and acquisition activity was rampant across the whole telecom sector, with EXFO (Nasdaq: EXFO; Toronto: EXF) joining in the fun with a $17.7 million purchase of DSL test assets from Consultronics Ltd. to go with its FTTx test tools. (See EXFO Buys, Ixia Plummets.)
That was in early January, and there was plenty more T&M M&A to follow...
8. Hold on a Minacom!
Another player itching to open its wallet was Tektronix Inc. , which waded into the M&A melee with the $27 million acquisition of VOIP test firm Minacom , which comes with a decent set of telco and cable operator customers. (See Tektronix Buys VOIP Test Firm.)
Minacom had been around for years, but it had been pretty low key -- until this year. Then it ramped up its external communications activities, releasing a series of press releases about partnerships, VOIP tests, and new services. And then it got bought. But we're not saying the two are linked.
What's next? Oh yes, the company formerly known, and still widely referred to, as Acterna...
7. What's New, JDSU?
Acterna was acquired by JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) (JDSU) in the summer of 2005, so this year was JDSU's first full year as a major test vendor. (See JDSU Buys Into Testy Market.)
The headline focus is still very much on the vendor's optical product line, so much so that it's easy to forget some times that the test business, which includes OSS products as well as lab and field test gear, pulls in an impressive $115 million-$150 million in revenues each quarter. (See JDSU Reports Q2, Whispers Shout Down JDSU, JDSU Shoots Low, and JDSU Lands in the Black.)
Put another way, the former Acterna unit is a $500-$550 million a year business.
So will JDSU invest further in the test sector? While many in the T&M sector were waiting for JDSU to announce a wireless test acquisition to fill a glaring hole in its portfolio, that never happened. Instead, the vendor bought a home networking test tool specialist called Test-Um. (See JDSU Buys a Bit of Test.)
Rumors that JDSU is now scouting around for a company called Measure-Um, so it can buy that too, are complete bunkum.
6. What a Mesh!
We started the year by organizing "the first comprehensive test of wireless mesh networking gear," along with test lab Iometrix Inc. (See Wireless Mesh Gets a Test.)
Then in June we published the results. The conclusion? "Mesh hardware is ready for prime time, and that multiple radios in a mesh access point vastly improve network performance." (See Wireless Mesh Passes Test.)
5. VOIP: For Better or Worse
Worse, it would seem. (See Study: VOIP Quality Getting Worse, Report Hisses at VOIP Quality, and Survey: VOIP Quality Is Breaking Up.)
4. Hot Topic of 2006: IPTV
Yes, there's no getting away from it, either at work or at home (depending on where you live).
IPTV is just about the hottest topic around in the telecom world, and, of course, the test sector is no exception. So it was inevitable it would crop up a few times in our 2006 T&M coverage... (See IPTV Triggers Test Action, Triple Play Fires Up Test Sector, Test Firms Tackle IPTV, VOIP , Carriers Inspect IPTV More Closely , IPTV Testing Goes Standard, and Brix Launches Triple Test for Triple Play.)
3. What's Up at Telcordia?
Good question. We'd love Telcordia to tell us, but it's still not speaking to Light Reading.
So, some other people told us what's going down. (See Is Telcordia Preparing for a Sale? )
2. Spirent's Extreme Makeover
It's been a topsy-turvy year for Spirent Communications plc -- in fact, the company has made so many significant decisions it could almost populate a Top Ten of its own. It sold off a major but non-core part of the company, acquired several specialist test vendors, continued to restructure in an effort to cut costs, and decided to return more cash to its investors in an effort to keep them sweet. (See Spirent Stabilizes, Spirent Slumps on Update, Spirent Cuts More Jobs, Spirent Gets Imperfect, Spirent Buys Test Partner, Spirent Buys VOIP Test Firm, Spirent Buys Wireless Test Firm, and Spirent Unit Sale Confirmed.)
But that wasn't enough to retain the status quo...
1. Blitz! Blitz! It's a Boardroom Blitz!
The year ended with boardroom upheaval as activist investor Sherborne Investors garnered enough support to oust three Spirent board members, including the chairman, and instigate the resignation of two others. (See Spirent Suffers Boardroom Coup and Spirent Directors: Back Us or We Quit.)
So now one of the biggest and most influential players in the telecom test and measurement market is heading into 2007 with the head of a turnaround investment firm as its chairman. It's very likely Spirent will figure in 2007's T&M Top Ten.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading