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Gaining a Competitive Edge with Product Features
a&s International 2007/8/17

Products begin with technology. In fact, introduction of new technology is often all that is needed to establish a company in a given market. Soon, however, competitors mimic the new technology. More powerful features, thus, become an important differentiator. Products begin with technology. In fact, introduction of new technology is often all that is needed to establish a company in a given market. Soon, however, competitors mimic the new technology. More powerful features, thus, become an important differentiator.

Asian optical manufacturers are developing products with special, more powerful features and functions to distinguish themselves from the competition. Some use advanced modulation techniques or incorporate add-drop matrices inside optical transceivers to increase transmission efficiency; others adopt multiplexers to decrease product cost or offer network management.

More efficient transmission

Wamin Optocomm Manufacturing Corp., a Taiwan-based company, uses digital modulation techniques in its digital video fiber converters specifically designed for surveillance. Modulation techniques convert video signals to light signals and back to electrical signals. Digital modulations (DM) have numerous advantages over other methods such as baseband amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM) solutions. These advantages include reduced interference, low level of signal degradation and even zero loss if proper components are used. 

According to Howard Chiang, Sales and Marketing Director at Wamin, "communication engineers can now design a network where truly transparent broadcast-quality video transmission is achievable. DM enhances performance of video transmission networks comprised of multiple physical layers."

In addition, such devices can be deployed easily at roadsides or out-ofplant environments with no degradation of long-term reliability. Self-adaptation obviates the need for manual adjustment. "Compared with other modulation techniques, digital modulation clearly stands out," commented Chiang.

Vorx Telecommunications, a Beijingbased Chinese manufacturer, embeds matrices into transceivers to enhance transmission efficiency. Traditional surveillance systems (video transceivers and analog matrices) require that video signals pass through several levels of matrices, going through several analog-digital and digital-analog conversions before video signals reach ultimate destinations. In contrast, optical modules convert inputs and outputs within the matrices, themselves. "Before input signals are emitted, they are already in the form of video images," said Wen Yi Wang, Technical Support Engineer at Welltrans O&E Co.

In optical matrices, all video signals received are combined for central management. Since optical switches do not require compression, images are more detailed. "In the future," said Wang, "optical matrices will be embedded with storage cards, so storage need not be plugged in externally. This may make traditional matrices obsolete."

Another advantage of incorporating the matrix function inside optical transceivers is that, "exchanges can be done with interconnectivity at multiple levels" according to Ryan Chen, President of Vorx Telecommunications. "Today, different levels of monitoring points at different locations require that resources and information be shared efficiently. Optical matrices allow connections between different monitoring points, so any point can see images from others easily."

Reduced Product Cost

Michael Chen, Managing Director of Taiwan-based SuperiorLink Corp., pointed out that his company is able to use add-drop multiplexers (ADM) to provide customers with a much more affordable alternative for transmitting multiple signals across single optical fibers simultaneously. An ADM is a multiplexer that has the capability to add or drop one or more lower-bandwidth signals to an existing high-bandwidth data stream, making all signals work in one single optical fiber. 

According to Chen, compared with course wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) technologya protocoltransparent transport technology that allows simultaneous transmission of multiple services across single optical fibersADM is less expensive. "One laser transmitter can be more expensive than the entire optical transceiver."

Instead of using different laser transmitters with different wavelengths, ADM employs the same laser, with core technology lying in adding and dropping electronic signals. SuperiorLink is able to overcome interference often encountered by electronic signals. "It turns out that ADM has achieved similar results as CWDM," concluded Chen.

Network Management System

Founded as a national research institute, WellTrans was a pioneer in transceiver development in China. The company was also one of the first Chinese manufacturers to launch uncompressed transceivers. "Being one of the earliest brands in China," said Wang, "we gained significant share in the domestic market. You do not see many imported brands in the transceiver market in China because of the strong growth of domestic brands."

One special function of Welltrans' product is that it has a built-in, fully expandable network management system (NMS), which supports point-to-point, chain and ring network topology. All modules, including those at remote sites, have the same network management interfaces and are managed by the same NMS. "Besides the factory default network management user interface," said Wang, "users can also remotely access the NMS via an Internet browser. No additional software needs to be installed." 

With the NMS, almost all important parameters such as voltage, module temperature, operating status, optical power and function configuration are monitored. In addition, monitoring records are kept for future reference. "The NMS," said Wang, "analyzes data automatically, sends out alerts for abnormalities and potential failures."

Better Customer Service

To achieve success, better customer response and more efficient communication are required. Leading fiberoptic product manufacturers in Asia are aiming high. Before, SuperiorLink was a pure distributor. Now, it has chosen to focus on manufacturing. This has enabled the company to better determine when and how to respond to better meet customer requirements.

"We had a customer that needed fiberoptic transmission up to 120 kilometers. Normally, it is difficult to surpass 100 kilometers," said Chen at SuperiorLink. Instead of adding amplifiers, which not only magnify signals but also noise, the company took the problem of dispersion into consideration and came up with a solution based on its optoelectronic components. "We changed the way that the laser was transmitted and received by making the components more precise."

It goes without saying that response requires speed. "Many Chinese manufacturers," said Chen at Vorx, "rely on system integrators to collect end-user responses." The process, however, is too indirect and time-consuming. "We need to talk to our end-users when designing solutions because, in China, most system integrators and installers are pure executors without the ability to design solutions."

One of Vorx's customers asked the manufacturer to put telecommunication and video signals into one input and outputon the transceiver, there are normally separate inputs or outputs. "It was not difficult, but this is yet another example of how we respond to customer needs," said Chen.

While many Asian fiberoptic manufacturers concentrate on making quality products, improving customer service is also a smart strategy. This starts with effective communication. Wamin spends a significant amount of annual revenue on marketing efforts to achieve this aim.

To minimize response time, Wamin uses specially designed software that allows immediate feedback. "If our partners have a problem with one of our products, perhaps because of a faulty design, they can easily find the correct contact person," said Chiang. In addition, the software enables them to determine where the problem isbe it user error, hardware problems or incorrect installation.

"Our goal is to shorten the response time," explained Chiang. "We think that if the feedback process is too complicated, then the responses will no longer be as valuable." Wamin also sends out product development notices to all partners through its marketing software, so that they have a clear understanding of Wamin's new products. Chiang stresses the importance of growing together with client's R&D teams. "Some clients have very strong R&D teams; cooperating with them has helped our product development in many ways."

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