Service providers and contractors can rely on a converged, cloud-based, user-friendly test and measurement portfolio from a single vendor
Interview by Broadband Library
How does Trilithic fit within the VIAVI product portfolio, and what does the combination offer that VIAVI didn't possess earlier?
The Trilithic leakage, satellite instruments,and Emergency Alert Systems (EAS) products are clearly complementary to the VIAVI portfolio. We are planning to maintain or enhance Trilithic roadmaps going forward; hence, we do not plan to make any significant changes in product offerings in the short term. Trilithic also possesses point solutions for contractors and installers which complement VIAVI Solutions and are more modular / multi-purpose in nature. The combined portfolio is stronger in serving our customers with a broader integrated product set, larger, global sales, and go-to-market teams to support our customers.
Where are you with regard to combining your companies right now, and what's ahead?
We have completed our strategic planning between the two companies. Our go-to-market and business unit/product teams have been unified starting in 2018. We wanted to do this first so our strategy and our customer engagements were aligned with market and customer needs. We plan to integrate the rest of the organization over time. We want to maintain the success and customer-based market approach Trilithic has created well into the future.
Our customers will see the varied benefits of new integrated solutions in our combined portfolio throughout the year. For instance, we demonstrated at the 2017 SCTE Cable-Tec Expo our latest assurance solution, XPERTrak, integrating leakage data from Trilithic in conjunction with subscriber QoE, PNM, and PathTrak data, establishing a unique solution in the industry to provide full network visibility.
Timing is always a consideration in corporate M&A activity. From a customer marketplace standpoint, what made this the right time to join forces?
The amount of industry changes and evolution that we are experiencing now and will continue to see for the next several years made this the right time. We believe we need scale in both portfolio and R&D to maintain strategic partnerships with our customers.
For example, one of the major trends in our industry is the expansion of broadband data and services by communications service providers upgrading their networks to DOCSIS® 3.1, increasing node splits, and starting to deploy distributed access architectures (DAA)—which will require a whole new set of test and measurement solutions, with synergies of hardware and virtualization. Not to mention, our customers are challenged to navigate all these changes with existing resources. The combination of our two leading test companies—VIAVI and Trilithic—will create more scale in serving this market.
Can you talk about the issue of signal leakage detection: what it is, what it means for the cable industry today, and how you're helping to address it?
As most people are aware, leakage testing has been used not only for FCC compliance but also for localization of upstream interference, or ingress, affecting cable upstream communications. Upstream link reliability is becoming even more important because it can affect download speeds (down/up speed ratio to be maintained) and IoT applications. The trend of leakage testing in the HFC network is to add another frequency at around 600 MHz. Significant differences in leak patterns have been shown between the VHF aeronautical band and the 600 MHz and 700 MHz bands, where LTE is commonly placed. In-home/in-MDU leakage testing is another fairly new big focus area for many operators because the noise contributions from homes/MDUs are becoming a larger percentage of overall problems.
VIAVI unified with Trilithic can now offer full leakage testing find and fix solutions for both in-home and HFC. Unique, in-house specifically designed antenna sets have been critical for HFC find and fix applications. Our patented in-home leakage solution, Seeker HL, has been tested at several cable operators labs and shows extreme sensitivity to find the smallest leaks with an out-of-box experience, empowering any technicians to find and fix the in-home/in-MDU issues.
What are some of the impacts tied to DOCSIS 3.1 implementations on test and measurement demands? How has the game changed?
We have been privileged to be a part of several key DOCSIS 3.1 rollout plans for top operators around the world which started almost three years ago. Our customers have asked us to develop new solutions in three main areas: 1) How to test new OFDM carriers; 2) How to cope with DAA rollouts in conjunction with DOCSIS 3.1 (especially around amplifier setup/alignments and sweep, when no RF signals are available in the headends/hubsites); and 3) How to best qualify for speed over RF and over Ethernet, when many customer devices are not capable of measuring 1 Gbps.
Because of early engagements and collaboration, we were able to provide the first DOCSIS 3.1 field test instrument with the OneExpert ONX to meet the industry's aggressive DOCSIS 3.1 rollout plans. VIAVI's OneExpert provides solutions for the three key points we mentioned previously: a dashboard test summary for OFDM carriers, DAA/remote PHY capable sweep/alignment solutions, and throughput speed capabilities around 1 Gbps over Ethernet and 2 Gbps over RF.
As ﬁber networks move closer to customer end points, how are technicians affected, and what new tools do (or will) they require?
We have seen two trends that are impacting the field workforce. First is the trend of converging home technicians to work on both RF/DOCSIS and FTTH jobs. We have seen an increase in demand for fiber-essential tools for home technicians, such as fiber scopes and power meters, which can be added as accessories to the existing VIAVI RF/DOCSIS instruments they carry. Another trend is deeper fiber for traditional node splits and remote PHY deployment. This affects both contractors who do construction for laying out fiber and also in-house technicians who maintain the network in the field and headends/hub sites. We have seen significant interests and demand not only in the fiber-essential tools, including a Multi-fiber Push On (MPO) capable fiber inspection solution, but also in OTDRs, especially the DWDM OTDRs.
What is the role of “cloud” in enhancing functionality and ease-of-use within the test/measurement domain?
Marrying the back-end systems and network elements data in the “private cloud” with local test data in the field could be a powerful tool to simplify isolating problems and help dispatch the right technicians with the right tools—at the right time. For example, our assurance solution XPERTrak has a mobile-friendly interface to help process data simply, as well as compare data with other subscriber performance to distinguish between subscriber-specific problems versus wider-area problems.
We see that field technicians are becoming a cloud-connected, smart device-centric workforce. This enables the “public cloud” to become an essential platform for managing both the direct workforce and contractors in a common process and workflow. The StrataSync cloud software and mobile application manages test assets as well as test data, which enables operators to deploy the same configurations, such as limit sets, across contractors and the same workflow for pass/fail performance compliance in near-real time.
What's your approach to R&D and ongoing investment in technology solutions? How do you determine where to invest…and when?
We are now operating as one business unit team to be able to make cohesive strategic investment decisions to best serve our markets and customers. The new R&D scale will enable the combined company to expand the product portfolio to better serve current markets and to grow in new and adjacent markets. Most importantly, our investment decisions are made with close collaborations with our customers. We pride ourselves on being innovative in test, while helping operators navigate through change as easily as possible.