Analog Angle Article

Thinking field-test thoughts

Engineers are pretty good at understanding key component and system specifications, from a designer's perspective. After all, that's what designers are educated to do, and trained by the job to do. Component and marketing specifications define desired and actual performance.
But sometimes, the specs that are really important depend on your position in the product chain.

Do you think you understand DSL specs? I did, until a friend doing DSL installations for Verizon showed me a DSL field-test unit called the CoLT-450 from Consultronics Ltd (now part of EXFO Electro-Optical Engineering Inc). This $2600 portable “triple play” unit (click here for the details) does IP video, voice, and data service testing for IPTV, ISP and VoIP services.

What's especially interesting, when you look at the attributes of this unit, is that the performance parameters it checks are not just the ones equipment designers usually associate with DSL and triple-play evaluation on the bench. It's very much oriented to towards the technical “bottom line”. For example, it can simulate either end of a link and help determine if the reason an end-user is unable to connect to the Internet is physical (cable, for example), setup parameters, addressing, password, or other; it can also verify and assess operation of the DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) function of the DSL system. And while it can provide detailed performance numbers and analysis, it also provides simple pass/fail indications for many of them. Simplicity of presentation is as important as underlying details here.

Even if you are deep in design, it's worth taking a look further down the road to the field installation, test, and use, and what's important to these segments. It will give you a better perspective on the needs and priorities of “the other side.” It may also point you to some very useful test equipment that will make your own task easier.

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