There are good days ahead for the Indian T&M industry, with demand increasing due to a range of factors including the expansion of IoT, telecom, and automotive electronics.
By Madhukar Tripathi
Test and measurement (T&M) instruments are an important requirement in any technical field. T&M plays a key role right from product design and production to deployment or post-sales support (for repair and calibrations). T&M instruments are used by many industry segments like mobile/telecom operators, Internet service providers (ISPs), network equipment manufacturers, systems integrators, production/ manufacturing services, public utilities, educational institutes, R&D institutes, automotive electronics, consumer electronics, aerospace and defence communication, paramilitary, broadcast radio and television, etc.
The Indian T&M market is divided into two major segments—international OEMs (imported T&M) and Indian OEMs. The key players in the first category are Anritsu, Keysight, Viavi, Exfo, Yokogawa, Spirent, National Instruments, Tektronix, Rohde & Schwarz and Cobham. Indian OEMs include Meco, Megger, Scientech, Aplab and AIMIL.
There are many T&M products in the market, and some of them are listed here:
• Power supplies
• Spectrum analysers
• Vector network analysers (VNA)
• Power meters and power sensors
• Signal generators—CW, vector and analogue
• Signal analysers
• Optical spectrum analysers
• Ethernet analysers
• IP/VoIP analysers
• Protocol analysers
• Optical power meters and light sources
• Radio communication analysers
• Signalling testers
• WLAN testers
• LCR meters
• Audio analysers
• Conformance test systems
There are many models of these T&M instruments for varying applications. Sometimes, a combination of one or two products is available as a single instrument. This optimises the
cost of the equipment.
Technical advances in the T&M domain
As electronic products are getting smaller and smaller, test and measurement instruments are also getting more compact, with more user friendly GUIs. Measurement times are shorter and the results more accurate. New technologies such as 5G, IoT, M2M, etc, are being evaluated with the latest T&M devices. Today’s T&M instruments have more intelligence inside, making the measurement job easy and faster. Many T&M instruments support both legacy as well as the latest technologies in a single unit, which saves a lot of money. These instruments also have USB, LAN and Bluetooth interfaces, which make data transfer and report sharing easier and faster.
Emerging trends and market opportunities
India is the world’s second largest telecom market and Internet user. As per a report by Ericsson, India has the world’s highest data usage per smartphone at an average of 9.8GB per month. This is possible due to the lower cost of smartphones and handsets. Due to the rapid adoption of emerging technologies, India is turning into a leading T&M market. Key emerging market segments include 5G R&D, Internet of Things (IoT) and automotive. We have seen significant T&M investments in the Indian market in these sectors.
The desire for always being connected has put pressure on telecom service providers to keep networks ready for higher data rates and speeds, better network coverage, an improved customer experience, high quality of service, etc. The lower cost of smartphones is boosting data consumption behaviour. ‘Smart’ is a key word in the electronics industry, with smart watches, smart homes, smart cities, connected cars, etc, all needing a stable communication network. These networks need good quality, highly reliable T&M instruments to create, design, deploy and maintain them.
Wired communication networks are moving towards 400G from 100G, and are scalable for higher data rates in the future. Most Indian mobile network operators have 100G-400G capacity, which enables smooth downloads in layman terms. In the wireless segment, the industry is focusing on 5G or the Fifth Generation Network. LTE (Long Term Evolution) and LTE–Advance technology based telecom networks are already in place and serving Indian customers. The T&M equipment required for such cutting-edge technologies are available in the market. Millimetre (mm) wave is the hot new buzzword in the telecom industry and has created demand for a new type of T&M instrumentation. The government of India has supported many 5G projects with leading educational institutes to provide economical solutions and use cases for 5G. This has created demand for T&M in the 5G R&D space. With its vast geography, India will have legacy as well as the latest network infrastructure, which will need interoperability related testing.
The broadcast and satellite industry is also working towards a better customer experience such as enabling the availability of High Definition (HD), 4K and 8K video, i.e., high quality picture delivery.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is another new area that is seeing demand in the R&D and production segments.
The automotive industry: The connected car is the new buzzword in the automotive industry. Most passenger vehicle companies have connected car models ready or under trial.
These are fitted with a combination of electronics, connectivity, automation, infotainment, etc. This translates to more and more electronics inside modern cars. The better infotainment systems required in connected cars has opened up new R&D avenues in the automotive segment. The use of the latest electronics and technology will also lead to safer travel. Bluetooth, cameras, radars, GPS connection, e–calling, etc, are some new areas in the automotive industry which require testing, and are hence creating demand for T&M instruments.
The government’s push for BharatNet (Bharat Broadband), Digital India, smart cities, information highways, e-governance, etc, are key projects which require extensive use of T&M at various stages—from project design, to deployment and maintenance. We can expect demand for T&M instruments for the pan-India optical fibre cable installation and maintenance and in the CATV segment. Many defence communication projects have also boosted demand.
The government has mandated testing of many consumer goods, and a number of labs have been established under this programme. These are known as Mandatory Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipment (MTCTE) labs. These setups too need many T&M instruments.
In 2019, India imported electronic products valued at nearly ₹ 4 trillion. This accounted for nearly 11 per cent of all imports into the country that year. Products included computer hardware, consumer electronics, electronic components and instruments, and telecom instruments. The government’s Make in India programme has created demand for some of the general purpose T&M instruments, along with imported T&M. India is also emerging as an electronics manufacturing hub due to lower labour costs, a skilled workforce, lower space costs, etc. We expect T&M demand to increase in this area as well. Many mobile handset manufacturing plants have been established under the Make in India programme.
T&M plays an important role in the defence and aerospace industry as well. Communication is crucial in this sector. Nowadays, security agencies and government officials around the world are stepping up efforts to detect the presence of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in places where they don’t belong. This is possible by using a spectrum analyser. Many defence- specific materials need critical testing, which require various T&M tools such as signal generators, power meters, spectrum analysers and vector network analysers (VNAs). Future wars will be electronics and technology based!
Most new consumer electronic products (PCs, tablets, mobile phones, etc) will have high data rate interfaces such as USB3.0 or higher (PCIe Gen2/3/4/5 or PAM4). All these technologies need dedicated T&M such as a bit error rate tester (BERT), signal quality analyser, protocol analyser, etc.
Adopting the rental mode for T&M instruments is another growing trend in this domain. Low budget, smaller duration projects and startups have a preference for rental T&M.
Key issues and challenges
The Indian T&M segment can exploit significant growth opportunities but also faces some challenges such as:
- The need to import raw materials such as components or modules for Indian manufacturers
- Low cost and low-quality products in the market
- T&M imports/transfers by many end users
- Lack of government incentives for the T&M industry
- Higher GST for some T&M imports.
The author is head-optical business and marketing, Anritsu India Pvt Ltd. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the T&M industry. He has worked mostly in the telecom T&M space and has spent six years in the DAQ, sound, vibration and analytical environmental T&M domain.