Professional manufacturers of telecommunications equipment are facing a number of pressing challenges.
Catering to a diversified and demanding customer base, from multinational corporations to governments and public institutions, they need to deliver equipment with advanced features, that perform as expected and that meet high-security standards.
In addition, equipment manufacturers need to develop new products faster, adopt the latest technologies to stay at the forefront of innovation, and find the right specialists to develop, test, and maintain their products.
Here are the top five challenges facing professional telecommunications equipment manufacturers, as seen from our own experience of working with them day-to-day.
1. Reducing time to market
A survey conducted by Sopheon revealed that 79% of new products miss their launch date.
The financial implication of that statistic is significant; data suggests that up to 33% of profits may be lost if a product is delayed by 6 months.
According to the same study, products that get to market on time command premium prices early in their life cycle.
As a result, the pressure on telecommunications equipment manufacturers to design, build and release new products in a short time is high, with no room for errors and defects.
Thoroughly testing the telecommunications equipment and ensuring this process happens on time is critical. Testing the telecommunications equipment is not an isolated process, it goes hand in hand with design, production, marketing, and other internal processes. Any delays in testing or undiscovered defects in the final product will translate into delaying launch dates and thus losing revenue and profits.
This is an area where Wirtek has been able to add value to our customers; understanding how equipment should behave, how testing cycles affect the product’s lifecycle, as well as comprehending the business needs of the client/end-user.
2. Ensuring Quality Control
The quality of the telecommunications equipment manufacturers produce has a direct impact on their company’s revenue; faulty products that get recalled are expensive to repair and replace. In addition the loss of the client's respect and the damaging of reputation in the market; both of which are incredibly valuable and very hard to recapture.
Professional telecommunications devices need to operate exactly as expected. Consider handheld devices being used in hospitals or by police departments; their battery life cannot be less than what it’s described in the product’s manual. Making certain that launched products work properly and continue to perform accordingly after updates or modifications, is critical.
Working with skilled test and QA engineers who understand in detail the technologies being used, is a vital aspect for ensuring quality control of all products.
This leads us to the third challenge facing professional telecommunications equipment manufacturers.
3. Finding and retaining specialized engineers
According to a Gartner survey in late 2018, talent shortage emerged as the top risk factor that organizations face globally.
The talent shortfall starts with too few university graduates and professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Future of Work McKinsey Study from June 2020 estimates that across Europe STEM-related occupations roles could grow by more than 20 percent in the coming decade.
In the telecommunications equipment industry, this talent gap is deepened by the fact that test engineering roles require a combination of specialized skills (networking skills, understanding of telecommunications protocols, testing, and QA skills). Therefore few telecommunications engineers are inclined to choose this path because a niche specialization could mean fewer career options to choose from.
4. Adopting new technologies to stay ahead of the competition
“Never touch a running system” is a popular anecdote among engineers, but this cannot apply to the top equipment producers. To stay ahead of their competition, these manufacturers need to continue to innovate and transition to the newest technologies, including 5G, ultra-low-energy, and others.
The demand for adopting new and improved technology is imperative for their customers; think about IoT sensors in a factory that need a long battery life or the communication networks created for hospitals that perform better on 5G.
5. Ensuring device security
When ensuring the security of critical devices used in professional settings, equipment manufacturers can never be too cautious. A security breach of such a device can lead to loss of sensitive information (think of handheld devices used in police departments or hospitals) and financial losses.
This is why testing these devices is so important, and the test cases need to take into account all possible scenarios, even those that seem virtually impossible. Experienced test engineers can provide valuable input to the process since they execute the test scenarios related to security, they can provide valuable feedback and input for the R&D teams as to why a specific situation can represent a potential security breach.
Test engineers need to be up to date with the security protocols of telecommunications infrastructure to be able to test for and identify any potential vulnerabilities.
How can professional telecommunications equipment manufacturers better cope with these challenges? Training and investing in professional development for their engineers is one part of the solution. In addition, working with experienced providers of electronic equipment conformance testing can support equipment manufacturers to handle challenges in a successful way.