Last month in an air conditioned switch room of a UK-based mobile operator, I joined one of our clients trying to commission an Ethernet backhaul circuit. Despite the equipment manufacturer’s claims of a plug-and-play solution, this particular link didn’t want to “play”. The air-con was obliged to work a little harder as both the frustration levels and temperatures rose. Then, I heard an exchange that has become the proudest of my professional life:
“Are we sure it’s not a fiber issue?” yelled the technician’s irate manager.
“No way”, the technician replied. “We ran the EXFO over it and it checks out.”
An EXFO OTDR.
I’m not going to lie. For a moment, I let my imagination run with the thought that EXFO had reached the pinnacle of product-branding nirvana—where our brand name was synonymous with the application it performed (think Xerox or Hoover). Indeed, I was just planning to call my boss to let him know that my work here was done, when my mind dropped back into the room thanks to some loud groaning and swearing on the part of the technician. He realized that the pesky router port settings had been manually set to a specific limit, hence putting the kybosh on that GE circuit turn up—plug-and-play indeed.
Even though EXFO and OTDR may not be completely synonymous (or at least not yet), I did realize that day how mission-critical many of our testing tools are and how fortunate we are to have earned that customer’s trust in both our products and people. This partnership and trust is reflected in the fact that EXFO has been recognized as a global leader in portable fiber optic test equipment (FOTE) for the last five years (according to Frost & Sullivan) and based on regional market share data here in EMEA, is the clear no. 1 supplier of OTDR instruments. Moreover, I take huge pride from the fact that EXFO enjoys so much positive feedback regarding the capability and quality of our products. We also bank on the expertise and dedication of our expert support team—many of whom are trusted advisors to our customers, helping them develop and execute rigorous fiber characterization strategies.
The trust placed in us by so many customers is truly humbling. Spending just 30 seconds searching on the Internet will quickly yield a plethora of other OTDR manufacturers—some good products from other quality manufacturers, some not so well known (and indeed many look-a-likes that make me look twice), and certainly many with similar technology and performance claims at lower prices. Given the mission-critical nature of a healthy fiber plant to telecom and datacom networks, it is widely recognized that an accurate and effective testing strategy is critical. This is why so many customers choose EXFO. This recognition is very important to us.
Today, OTDRs are ubiquitous weapons in the armory of modern fiber technicians. Applications range from contractors installing structure cabling in data centers to radio engineers and riggers delivering fiber up cell towers and traditional telecom technicians characterizing and troubleshooting optical fiber. OTDR technology also underpins remote fiber testing systems which are at the heart of telecom operator networks that perform 24/7 monitoring—these are the first-line sentinels of network integrity and enable rapid restoration in outage scenarios.
At EXFO, we are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. Our entry into OTDR technology started over 20 years ago. These instruments have certainly evolved a long way from the cumbersome, temperamental and expensive devices I first encountered some 20 years ago. Today's OTDRs are highly sophisticated, supremely portable—just ask a radio rigger climbing 50 feet up a tower— and so easy to use that they continue to surprise even the gnarliest old engineer, such as myself.
Right from the good ol’ days, EXFO was determined not only to master the technology but also develop a highly application-centric approach that harnessed this technology in a format that best suited our customers’ real-life needs. This knowledge and insight have come only through deep and close relationships with our customers. We want to understand your needs and challenges to continuously develop the innovative technology required to meet those challenges. The revolutionary EXFO iOLM—a unique innovation that turns even the freshest access technician into an fiber characterization expert—is an amazing testament to this partnership. This product was developed after a lunch-time discussion with a customer concerning the difficulties he anticipated facing during a large scale and rapid FTTx deployment.
Thank you to all of our customers for your continued ideas and feedback. We appreciate your trust which has allowed EXFO to become #1 in our field. It’s not a position we take for granted. We will continue to listen, develop real-life solutions to meet your challenges, and provide expert engineering support to help you achieve your goals.
Here’s to the next 30 years together—you can continue to count on EXFO!