Seldom in the limelight, test and measurement vendors provide a broad range of hardware and software tools without which the vendor and operator communities would be unable to function, which is why Light Reading has a dedicated award for this specialist but invaluable community.
This year, six companies have been shortlisted, with the award going to the "communications networking test and measurement, monitoring or assurance systems vendor that stands out from its competitors, innovates constantly, helps set the industry trends, makes investors proud, and makes employees happy."
The six companies in the running are:
The Leading Lights winners, and the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner, which will be held at the Pinnacle Club in Denver, on Monday, May 6, on the eve of the Big 5G Event. Find out about how to book a table and attend the awards dinner by clicking on this link.
Here's a look at the companies shortlisted in the Outstanding Test & Measurement Vendor category:
Like many companies, Anritsu has its eyes on the 5G prize -- and why not!?
In May 2018, the company added support for Enhanced Common Public Radio Interface (eCPRI) and IEEE 1914.3 Radio over Ethernet (RoE), as well as high-accuracy delay measurement functions, to its Network Master Pro MT1000A product to "address the testing requirements associated with the rollout of 5G New Radio (5G NR) networks," it noted in its submission to the Leading Lights.
The new firmware addition brings dual-port 25G eCPRI/RoE measurement support to the MT1000A handheld tester, "supporting tests for implementing ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (uRLLC)," noted Anritsu. "The MT1000A's eCPRI/RoE support specifically addresses the changes in the mobile fronthaul to support the massive increases in data traffic due to expanding use cases and tight latency requirements associated with 5G," it added.
Anritsu's test and measurement business unit recently reported year-on-year increases in full financial year revenues -- up 25% to ¥68.2 billion (US$614 million) -- and operating profits -- up by 338% to ¥9.4 billion ($85 million) -- "by capturing the wave of investment in initial development for 5G."
Infovista has also been focused on 5G-related opportunities during the past year, stating in its submission that it "took on the 5G challenge" by evolving its TEMS test tool portfolio first to tackle automation and, more recently, "to data driven predictive network testing… the unique and well-developed user-centric network testing that TEMS invented in mid-90s is now taking a new shape to accelerate the 5G revolution utilizing AI/ML and predictive measurement and analytics."
In February this year, the company unveiled new versions of its TEMS Investigation and Planet solutions in order to provide "integrated Geodata, 5G Planning and Network Testing capabilities."
The company is also leveraging its "patented methodologies in edge computed measurements and analytics" to appeal to major enterprises in key industrial verticals that will be "dependent on service continuity and resilience from the future 5G networks." In this respect, Infovista is aiming to make headway in the car manufacturing sector.
Network analytics specialist Kentik, meanwhile, has focused its attention on video, launching its True Origin product suite in March this year to help broadband and mobile providers solve what it calls the "service provider squeeze."
As traffic volumes grow and CSPs face ever greater competition from OTT players, Kentik aims to leverage telemetry data to provide operators with "a detailed understanding of the interaction between CDNs, OTT services and subscriber behaviors… Having that level of insight allows providers to grow revenue and manage cost, competition and subscriber behavior."
True Origin provides a number of capabilities including CDN tracking, OTT service analytics (merging traffic data with DNS data to deliver meaningful OTT context) and subscriber behaviour analytics that enables operators to can merge traffic data with real-time authentication logs to tag each traffic record with a unique subscriber ID. "This improves customer service efficiency and outcomes and providers can proactively notify of service issues, network abuse or application usage impacting customer experience," noted the Kentik team.
Netrounds has adapted its market proposition to take hybrid operations into account, as it has developed its assurance suite to encompass not only network layers 1 to 7 but also cloud interconnect and intra-cloud connectivity. "Rather than needing multiple solutions to cover the multi-layer networks and domains that customers need to test, monitor and assure," customer can use a single cloud-based solution to assure physical, hybrid and virtual environments, it noted in its awards entry.
Through the use of Test Agents, which can be deployed to suit a customer's specific needs, operators can get visibility into a growing number of possible error sources, "from the distributed virtual appliances at the customer site to the cloud." To support this, Netrounds has added support for Test Agents in AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
This approach is particularly applicable for operators embracing virtualization: "When implementing virtual service chains, a test can be performed from a single Test Agent through the entire service chain and simultaneously sectionalize each VNF [virtual network function] within the service chain to be able to isolate its service performance and obtain observability."
To continue with its product and market development, Netrounds raised an unspecified sum of money in its Series A funding round that was led by Swisscom Ventures.
Like Anritsu, Spirent has been focusing its portfolio development on 5G-related products and, as a result, its financials have been boosted by early spending related to the next generation network specifications.
The company claims to have more than 30 5G customer wins, including Tier 1 network operators and all the major equipment, device and components vendors. "In selecting Spirent, our customers cited our time to market, the breadth of our 5G offering, unique features such as Standalone 5G Core Network emulation and proven benefits, such as a >70% reduction in test times," the company noted in its submission.
Spirent has also established new collaborations with industry leaders such as National Instruments, and government-funded 5G Innovation Centers such as the one located at the University of Surrey in the UK, where the test vendor has enabled the university's facilities to become the world's largest capacity 5G testbed. It has also helped accelerate the rollout of 5G in China through its work with the IMT-2020 5G group.
In 2018, Spirent reported a 5% increase in group revenues and a 31% increase in adjusted operating profits, noting that "5G development is gathering pace with positive impact on portfolio performance across all segments." During the 12-month period that ended March 1, 2019, Spirent's share price gained 57% in value.
Viavi has been addressing its portfolio and adapting its strategy to account for the "revolutionary" change underway across multiple network technology segments -- including fixed access broadband, to IoT, too 400 Gbit/s optical, virtualization and of course 5G -- and the shift in customer operations away from traditional processes to optimized production environments.
The company's internal evolution, plus what it calls some "prudent acquisitions" -- it completed the purchase of Cobham's Wireless Test business in March 2018 -- have positioned it well to retain its position as a major test and measurement supplier to the industry and help boost its business: In its fiscal quarter to the end of December 2018, Viavi reported a near 50% increase in revenues to almost $307 million and noted that it anticipated "continued strong performance in our key growth areas of 5G Wireless, 3D Sensing and Fiber" through this year.
The Cobham deal gave Viavi lab validation capabilities for mobile network technologies (including 5G) to add to its "strengths in field instruments and service assurance," and the vendor claims it is supporting "top operator groups" throughout the world with a range of 5G test tools from core emulators to base station analyzers.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading