Taking on the RF challenge (continued)
By Larry Maloney, Contributing Editor- March 1, 2011
Q: What is the range of products that fall within your Noisecom and Boonton business lines?
A: Noisecom provides products for all stages of noise-related systems, from noise diodes and noise modules to analyzers and test systems related to noise. Noise is often misunderstood, but is a very powerful means to calibrate systems or align frequency. It also provides broadband standards to allow highly accurate calibration and alignment of RF devices. In addition, noise-related instruments measure high-speed data-transmission technologies, like PCIe, USB, SerialATA, and Ethernet.
The focus of Boonton is RF power measurement. Its product range begins with low-cost USB RF power meters and extends to our combined RF power instruments like the 4540 and finally to high-end systems like our flagship 4500B, which addresses even the most complex measurement challenges. We also manufacture peak-power sensors that are very important to our power meters in mastering difficult test challenges.
Q. You've already noted significant new products from Noisecom. How about key introductions from your Boonton subsidiary?
A: While the physics of measuring RF power has not changed very much, how measurements are performed has changed dramatically. An example is faster measurement speeds that translate directly to increased production yields. Last year, Boonton introduced the 4240 series power meter, which is the successor to our well-known 4230 series. It comes with an integrated calibrator that provides an ultra-stable, 50-MHz reference signal. There is virtually no learning curve for test engineers and field technicians using this new instrument because it is fully backward compatible and can be paired with Boonton CW diode and thermocouple sensors. That compatibility is part of an important Wireless Telecom Group philosophy: protecting our customers' investments. Similarly, our new 59340 peak-power sensor, designed for frequencies up to 40 GHz, works well with our older and newer RF peak-power meters to provide fast, high-precision measurements.
Q: To what extent do test engineers use Noisecom and Boonton products in system solutions?
A: Many Noisecom and Boonton products are used in integrated solutions, beginning with noise diodes and noise modules that are soldered onto a PCB (printed-circuit board). All of our other products are used for both benchtop and ATE applications. They are an integral part of many production test setups for such applications as HDTV and serial high-speed data products, as well as automated test for aerospace and defense, including the testing of electronics in military and commercial planes.
Q: Where does your Microlab line fit into your product mix?
A: Microlab's domain is
passive components, such as power splitters, couplers, and terminations, for infrastructure
applications like wireless base stations and in-building antenna systems.
Microlab's flagship product is the Combiner Box, which is a plug-and play
instrument for signal distribution, especially for installations where you find
high data loads in very limited space. High-rise office buildings, sport arenas,
and trains are just a few examples of the many applications for the Combiner Box.
Microlab products are also found in medical systems that incorporate RF.
Q: Last May, Wireless Telecom sold Willtek Communications, a subsidiary that focused on mobile handset testing. What was behind that move?
A: We are a publicly
traded company with responsibility to create value not only for our customers
but also our shareholders. The Willtek acquisition was consummated in July 2005
and was intended to provide revenue and earnings growth through products aimed
at the mobile cellular T&M market, both in manufacturing and service. Willtek,
however, required significant R&D investment to stay current with several wireless
protocols prevalent throughout the world.
Although Willtek commands a significant portion of the revenue in the worldwide service market, it was unable to gain market share in the manufacturing of cellphones and therefore did not meet our targets for growth in revenue and earnings. Besides restructuring our management group and reducing costs throughout the organization in 2010, the sale of Willtek was a significant step toward allowing us to focus on our core business and grow revenue and net income in 2011 and future years.
Q: Which geographic regions look the most promising for your group's products?
A: Wireless Telecom Group's key market has always been the US, but we expect particularly strong growth in Europe and Asia. Not only have we strengthened our position in these areas by adding local facilities, but we also see signs of strong economic recovery and growth in some of these areas. That's especially the case in Germany, France, Russia, China, and Japan.