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Issue of April 2003 
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"T&M should be considered as a key business tool"

When Acterna changed its focus from a Test & Measurement (T&M) company to a Test & Management one, it found there was a lot more to offer, in terms of services. It believes there is a big opportunity for T&M companies who follow its example. Vishnu K Goel, Managing Director-India & Director-South Asia Pacific, Acterna India Pvt Ltd, updates us on the Indian Test & Measurement market, and his company's plans. by Gaurav Patra

What is Acterna's business strategy in India?
We are into communications Test & Measurement (T&M). Within communications T&M, we are addressing the five verticals—optical, cable networks, data IP, access and wireless. If I had to state the order of priority of positioning for Acterna, I would say optical, access and IP. These three are our major thrust areas.

Sometime back we were mainly doing the business of boxes in the test & measurement space. Then we started focusing our energy on positioning this company differently—we wanted to be more than a test and measurement company. We repositioned Test & Measurement to Test & Management. In fact, we are repositioning the industry as Test & Management.

While test and measurement is related to measurement of the boxes, management covers a whole range of software, services and support wrapped around the basic box. We had announced this concept in last year's Supercomm. We got a very encouraging response from our customers on this concept.

What are the products and solutions you have for the IP space?
In IP we are catering to all kinds of IP networks, for the Internet, Frame Relay or Ethernet. We have a range of products for this segment. We are trying to address all the IP layers, starting from physical right up to optical. The Physical Layer is being taken care of by optical instrumentation. As you move up from Layer 2 to Layer 7, we have different products, which can manage the entire network. In the days to come, IP is going to be our main focus area.

How important is T&M to Indian service providers?
If you compare globally, the cost of T&M equipment is generally five to seven percent of the total network cost. In India, our assessment is that companies do not spend even 0.1 percent on T&M equipment. So, there is 50 times more opportunity for T&M players in India.

Service providers should no longer consider T&M investment as expenditure. Rather, it is an investment in the true sense. It is going to ensure the quality of their network. And, because the quality of the network will be good, the productivity and ultimate profitability of their network will be directly dependent. I believe the T&M investment is a very strategic investment and service providers should realize the importance of T&M, to provide world-class services to their customers. Based on our understanding and on what we have seen in the past, we believe quality is going to be the key for the service providers, not technology or pricing.

What trends and opportunities do you foresee in this segment?
There are two or three trends that are happening right now. Because of the deregulation of the telecom industry, the number of operators is increasing everyday. Secondly, there is more emphasis on tele-density. This means, when we have more tele-density, we need to have carriers that can carry more bandwidth. So, broadband will be a reality.

The third trend is that because of the continuous emphasis on the quality of services, the expectation of the subscribers and the operators are changing. So, deregulation, bandwidth and quality of services are the basic drivers. When you have these as the basic drivers, this will pave the way for the growth of optical networks that can carry more bandwidth. And, here there is lots more opportunity for the T&M players. Also quality of services is going to be the mantra for the success of business.

There is a great need in terms of offering high value-add services to telecom companies. There is a huge opportunity to provide such kind of services to someone who is really oriented towards that quality of service provisions to its potential customers. So, the service providers should invest in areas where they can see the importance from business objectives. Then this industry will have a real bright future. It is unfortunate that none in the T&M industry have driven the cause.

How is the Indian T&M market moving?
Traditionally in India, the T&M companies are totally dependent on the government type of projects. And the process of buying bulk and multiple number of products is very relevant. Because of the bidding you drop the price so low that in most cases it is not that profitable. Of late, this trend has gone through lots of changes. After the corporatization of BSNL, the buying process also has undergone some changes and the requirement is now also rationalized from their point of view.

And basically we have seen that T&M companies are losing money heavily in serving that market. I believe that market can be served by all kinds of vendors who have not as much regard to the quality of the product. So, that has been a loss-making proposition for most of the companies.

I believe, where telecom T&M will be growing hopefully, are with those operators who are new, challenging the government operators and who are clearly considering T&M as an investment and not merely as an expenditure.

T&M should be considered as a key business tool. I am afraid till today, in our country, we have not seen anybody making use of this investment from that direction. This is happening because most of these T&M players were not able to communicate the strategic importance of T&M to all these telecom service providers. So, the responsibility lies with us, the T&M equipment vendors. And, this is what we are trying to do at Acterna. We believe T&M has to be seen as a strategic investment to fulfill their customer oriented objectives, which is quality of services, retaining customers, etc. So, if the service providers see investment in that light, then I can see a huge opportunity for T&M industry.

How are you different from your competitors?
The major differentiator is that we are into test and management and not just test & measurement. We offer services here in sync with global roll outs. And in India we have the advantage of exploiting our global experience and local expertise to cash in on those markets. As a smaller player in terms of hardware, we believe that we are better positioned. While the other big T&M players have got a plethora of products, and are present in almost all the market segments, we are totally dedicated to the communication niche of the industry. And when you are a niche player, your energy, focus, and your ability to provide solutions, which can add real value to your customer, is pretty high. We are very focused in the communications market, so we can offer more solutions in that limited space, which is about 20 - 25 percent of the whole industry. We want to consider ourselves as a smaller company that is willing to work hard through our skills and domain expertise in test & management.

What are your future plans?
Our whole focus is to grow our professional T&M consulting services and make all the Telecom companies aware of the importance of Quality of Service. In the days to come, we will be concentrating more on the service front. Our Global Services & Solutions (GSS) Division is driving this program. Our mission is to advance communications with innovative test and management solutions that drive customers' business to new levels. This year we are expecting an 80-100 percent growth.

Gaurav Patra can be reached at:

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