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Test & Measurement

Acterna Puts Video to the Test

Acterna Corp. sprung out of the traps Thursday with video tools for carriers, just ahead of what is set to be a bumper week of IPTV test system announcements at Supercomm (see Acterna Tests IPTV).

Having added Ethernet and VOIP applications to its NetComplete service assurance solution in the past two months, Acterna has now added video and TV service assurance capabilities that, says the company, will allow triple-play service providers to monitor and troubleshoot their video-over-IP services (see Acterna Adds VOIP Support to NetComplete and Acterna Offers Ethernet OSS).

This is clearly targeted at one of the telecom industry's hot sectors, and Acterna, which is in the process of being acquired by JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), will not be alone in talking up such test-and-measurement tools in Chicago next week (see JDSU Buys Into Testy Market and Acterna Finds Redemption).

At least two of Acterna's main competitors, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) and Spirent Communications, as well as a number of niche vendors, are expected to announce triple-play or IPTV test capabilities.

Acterna claims its chief differentiator is experience, having already bagged a number of Tier 1 carrier video test deals for its handheld field test devices, and having dealt with networked video services at its cable division (see Telefónica Prepares for IPTV Test).

For telecom operators, Acterna has added two video modules to its NetComplete solution -- one that sits at the video headend, where the stream enters the network, and one at the local central office, where the DSLAM is located.

Roger Lingle, VP of marketing in the firm's service assurance solutions division, says several carriers are already putting the video test modules through their paces. "We're already working with operators in Europe and Asia to help them meet the established customer expectations of video service quality, which are very high."

He says the two modules provide operators with a way of measuring the quality of the video stream at both ends of the network. The DTS-200 measures the quality of the video as it enters the network at the video headend, allowing the service provider to check that what is coming is of acceptable quality, he says. The other module, the QT-200, sits with the DSLAM and provides a measure of the video quality being experienced by end users.

"We measure a number of metrics, such as jitter, packet loss, and delay," says Lingle. From those metrics, the test generates a quality "score" that shows whether the video stream has been degraded, or whether channel changing times have dropped to an unacceptable level.

All very well, except none of this is standards-based -- which means any carrier using Acterna's solution is basing its video service assurance mechanisms on a proprietary methodology, which usually causes problems in the long run.

That's not Acterna's fault, though, as there currently aren't any standards in the video testing arena. Lingle says the company is working with one of its key partners, Telchemy Inc., to help develop a standard with the global telecom body, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). (See Acterna Tests VOIP With Telchemy and Telchemy Enhances Video/VOIP Analyzer.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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