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Creating Value: T&M strategies and service innovations

October 13, 2017
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By Vishnu Goel, Independent Telecom Consultant

The test and measurement (T&M) industry worldwide looks to satisfy different classes of users in two orthogonal directions, where on one axis, we have users like telecom, railways, manufacturing and aerospace, and on the other axis, we have the horizontal stages of these industries such as design, research and development, customisation, production, deployment and commissioning. A server-client relationship exists between the main T&M industry and the users.

Telecom-related T&M is driven by two sets of conformance and performance requirements, one specified by the regulatory body on standards and the other, the manufacturers’ own set of output specifications. Therefore, it is important to analyse recent telecom/internet trends in India and ascertain the type of T&M measurements that are likely to be required. We are at the peak of 4G roll-outs and testing of the conceptual 5G elements at research institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and other major innovation centres/centres of excellence is under way. All network investments in the next few years will be in 4G/5G. To serve the digital economy better, large-scale fiberisation and software-defined networking (SDN) testing will be deployed. Further, our networks need to be fully synchronised and have cybersecurity safeguards in place as per international protocols. Growth in internet access and smartphone uptake will be the main drivers for the telecom test equipment and services industry. In sum, the T&M industry growth drivers will be improved internet access, growth in mobility, synchronisation and improved network security.

Collaboration of the T&M industry with other associated industries is very important. Strong value creation can happen when the T&M industry treats the alliance as the vehicle of choice for devising futuristic solutions.

Mobile devices, synchronising systems and the network type dictate the requirement of the appropriate T&M solutions. Currently, with the launch of 4G and voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE) services, end-to-end signalling over LTE radio access is being tested. The increasing complexity of devices will demand wireless test systems both in research and development (R&D) and large manufacturing chains set up in partnership with contract manufacturers. Likewise, quality of service-related test equipment is now being demanded for different stages of the network lifecycle. Also, machine-to-machine testers are needed for testing and ensuring resilience of the internet of things (IoT) value chain.

Automation, virtualisation and SDN have progressively increased the productivity of T&M equipment on the manufacturing floor, and have also resulted in capex optimisation. The test elements now being used have special interfaces for networking and sharing resources available on the test floor. This trend is on an upswing in the telecom industry and has become a common ground for T&M, telecom and IT segments. Premium quality of services can be ensured if networks are linked with testing environments representing the real-life scenario. Further, virtual instrumentation or T&M resource management reduces the development time, increases the productivity of telecom network element managers, and makes technology investments relevant over an extended period.

T&M acquisition and procurement

The purchase of T&M equipment by large organisations is always a well-planned capex procurement. The need, in the big picture, is to reduce both capex and opex in any organisation and shift capex to opex by leasing T&M equipment rather than buying them outright. Flexibility in customer understanding can help immensely in such cases. In order to garner customer share, a combination of an excellent original equipment manufacturer and flexi-leasing companies is required. A robust procurement process based on the total cost of ownership and aimed at bringing about a capex-opex balance will be a win-win approach for all.

T&M market outlook

Since T&M is largely a global industry and highly concentrated in a few geographical locations, it is critical for these companies to focus on the augmentation of research and development in developing countries, as well as create a global supply chain of locally generated T&M solutions. However, this is easier said than done. To achieve this, a large number of alliances and centres of excellence need to be established. We need to have many start-ups on hardware rapid prototyping and T&M service innovations. We also need to create large project success stories through 5G roll-outs and major aerospace and defence projects for achieving breakthrough successes in T&M

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