Boonton - Targeting the RF Market, An Exclusive Interview with a Technical Leader

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Targeting the RF Market, An Exclusive Interview with a Technical Leader

Posted August 1, 2007

Monty Johnson joined Wireless Telecom Group in January 2006 as CEO and Vice Chairman. With more than 25 years in the telecommunications industry, he has extensive experience in delivering network services to the world’s largest wireless and wireline carriers. Prior to joining Wireless Telecom Group, Johnson served as president and GM of Tekelec’s Network Signaling Group. His career also includes management positions at Motorola and dynamicsoft, a communications software company acquired by Cisco Systems in 2004. Johnson received a BSEE from The Citadel and an MSEE from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Contributing editor Larry Maloney spoke with Sullivan about data-acquisition trends in a recent telephone interview.

Q:What test businesses fall under the Wireless Telecom Group?

A: Willtek, our largest unit, focuses on mobile-handset testing, both in manufacturing and in after-sale service and repair. Another division, Boonton, is a world leader in peak power analyzers. NoiseCom, the company’s first business, is a global pacesetter in noise generators, used extensively to test how high-performance communications systems perform in the presence of signal impairments. Beyond test, we have a fourth business, Microlab, which provides very-high-performance passive components to carry and distribute multiband RF signals.

Q: So, the heart of your company is expertise in RF technology?

A: Yes. Within that core expertise, we provide general-purpose test and measurement equipment, such as our 4500B peak-power meter and our 9100 family of handheld spectrum analyzers. We also apply that expertise to special-purpose equipment like our 4400 mobile-handset tester. An example in the special-purpose arena is the use of our random-noise-generation instrument for jitter testing in high-speed serial communications lines, such as PCI Express.

Q: Which of your test applications is growing the fastest?

A: Our fastest area of growth has been supporting the expansion of mobile communications, including all the commercial 2G and 3G wireless standards. This includes not just mobile handsets, but also support of base-station deployments and wireless deployments within buildings. Those in-building wireless deployments include commercial wireless standards, as well as WiFi, RFMD, and, increasingly, WiMAX.

Q: How much of your 38.7% net sales increase in 2006 was due to your Willtek acquisition?

A: The revenues of Germany-based Willtek before the 2005 merger were roughly similar to the combined revenues of our existing units, so clearly most of the revenue growth in 2006 revenues can be traced to the acquisition. Even so, we saw close to double-digit growth across our other businesses as well.

Q: How does the Willtek acquisition complement your overall product line?

A: Willtek’s core technology is wireless RF, just like our other businesses. Our growing expertise in RF has allowed us to move into such applications as a new analyzer for the TETRA (Trans European Trunk Radio) air interface. We also announced on June 12 a new TETRA handset tester, the Willtek 2303 Stabilock TETRA. It is the first TETRA mobile-station tester tailor-made for the professional mobile-radio-handset service environment.

Q: What emerging technologies and standards offer the most growth potential for your company?

A: We are prepared for the future in that we are fully anticipating new standards, such as 802.11n for wireless LAN. In many cases, we have designed for those standards within our current products. For instance, our Willtek 4400 communications tester has as its core signaling engine an extremely flexible and programmable multi-core DSP from PicoChip. That company’s family of chips is now being used as the programmable engine for many emerging applications, including both 2G and 3G femtocells and WiMAX base stations. Our relationship with PicoChip also enables us to quickly service new 4G-like applications.

Overall, we believe the continued evolution and growth in the mobile-communications markets create more and more demand for our products.

Monty Johnson provides more specifics on his company's products and test applications, as well as on fast-growing
global markets, in the continuation of this article.