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Spirent CEO Eric Hutchinson: Out of the Labs, Into the Boardroom

Carol Wilson

CW: So let's talk about 5G. Where do you see Spirent most engaged in those rollouts, which seem to be happening in different ways at different operators?

EH: So as you say, we've got a number of operators that are pursuing divergent paths to 5G deployment, so we are looking at how we support millimeter wave 5G or sub-6GHz 5G deployment. So we can be relevant in both sides. We're giving them new ways to interoperate hybrid 5G networks with a 4G core -- that's a complex world. We're looking at how we make it simpler for them to deal with the complexity. We're doing that in a number of ways, where we're improving the way that we test and assure. Some of our customers are [experiencing] a 50% reduction in the length of cycles. We're reducing their expenditure on capital investments through automated resource utilization in the development labs and testing labs and assurance processes -- about a 40% reduction in capex savings that we've realized for customers -- and a three-fold increase in the testing capacity and process and improving their time to market. We're enabling them to do faster releases, ten-times faster upgrades, we're helping them realize the move from development into operations with about 55% reduction in releasing deployment cycles.

So we're really making very tangible benefits. When you look at the business side, we're delivering on some multi-million-dollar savings, a $20 million annual saving for one of our large US service providers. We achieved a $2 per subscriber savings -- it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but with millions of subscribers... it's quite compelling.

CW: So you're able to actually quantify that for them upfront as they're making their 5G deployment plans?

EH: We're giving them the method so they can estimate it and some of the numbers I've been giving you are the ones that have been done on 4G service improvements and the initial 5G activities that our customers have measured and got back to us and said, "Well yep, these are the savings that we achieved."

CW: So you're giving them the tools to estimate it but they're actually coming up with the numbers.

EH: Yeah. That's right.

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CW: From Spirent's perspective, what changes with 5G in terms of what the service providers need to do? What are the challenges in getting that 5G infrastructure in place?

EH: You've got the concept of slicing up the spectrum into smaller parts. The spectrum utilization becomes very complex. We're enabling them to verify that's being done efficiently. The whole concept of the deployment of microservices and turning up services to individual customers across the network -- we're able, through our active assurance systems, to show the quality of the service that's being turned up and we're developing a whole series of use cases, whether that's a particular mobile service for a video deployment or whether it's a 5G-related data service financial customer -- those are two examples of things that we've done. It's really giving them a reliable way to measure and record the quality of service they're getting and really focus where they put their engineering support resources.

CW: They know where they need to beef things up, and where they don't -- not spending money where it doesn't need to be spent.

EH: Yeah, exactly. Don't get people working on anything that is not a top priority [and make sure] you're sending the right people to the right place with the right skillsets to deal with the issues.

CW: Is it your personal opinion that the industry is fairly ready for the 5G rollout in the 2019/2020 timeframe that everyone's expecting?

EH: Not really. I think there's an awful lot to be done. You'll see some high-profile deployments. They'll be quite limited in geographic footprint. You'll see some major headline events like the Olympics or major events where operators will build 5G infrastructure to serve that -- that will happen. We're seeing a lot of investment going into Asia. A huge amount of investment going to 5G in China in particular. They're putting a lot of resources into their deployments.

CW: Are you engaged in some of that activity?

EH: Yes we are -- we are the leading guys doing this work.

CW: So you're getting a first-hand look at what some of the early challenges are going to be, and what it's going to take to roll all this out?

EH: Absolutely, yes.

In part two of this CxO interview, Hutchison explains how Spirent is getting more engaged in cybersecurity and working to change its internal culture.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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