The challenges of network testing are growing in a multi-dimensional fashion, with installers and maintenance staff having to deal with a widening range of physical cabling types and network services. Today's commercial and residential network environments present a variety of voice, data and video (VDV) communications requirements, which can stretch the capabilities of technical staff.
In many cases, this means that both contract installers and internal IT staff need to expand beyond their traditional knowledge base to test and troubleshoot other services in which they are not as familiar. With the proliferation of multimedia networks in residential and small business situations, many end users also are looking for cost-effective and easy-to-use devices that enable them to do their own first-level testing.
In addition to handling passive cabling of various types, users need testing tools to navigate, test and maintain "active" networks. Here again, the test devices need to be simple to operate, guiding the user through easy-to-understand testing procedures, and also need to be "fail-safe" to protect both the tester and the network from incorrect connections or usage.
Current market research indicates that by the end of 2004, nearly 50 percent of all new homes were pre-wired with structured wiring solutions. The market demand for such home wiring has been growing rapidly during the past decade to support both new residential construction and retrofit requirements.
The growth in residential wiring also is being driven by the tremendous growth in wireless networking, where smart home structured wiring provides a natural complement to flexibly position broadband access points as well as distributing video, data and voice services. Interest in Voice over IP (VoIP) is fueling demand for residential structured wiring installations.
Increasingly sophisticated consumers and homeowners want to be able to move into their new homes and immediately take advantage of hassle-free services for voice, data, video, high-fidelity entertainment, integrated security systems and HVAC control capabilities. They want integrated control over everything on the home network at their fingertips, as well as being able to remotely control all functions when they are away from home.
In addition to the dramatic growth in new residential requirements for VDV testing and structured wiring, the industry is seeing a similar evolution of commercial requirements, moving from the conventional deployment of separate voice and data networks to a convergence of voice, data and video. This convergence is being driven by the need to simplify network maintenance and lower costs as well as new business-oriented applications such as integrated VoIP, security and bio-metric applications.
Current and future VDV installations may use a variety of cabling types. A single residential installation may include coaxial cable, structured cable, phone wiring and power-line carrier functions. Similarly, although commercial installations will continue to predominately use structured wiring for data traffic, a significant percentage also use coax for closed circuit security as well as various legacy phone wiring modes for delivering POTS, PBX, ISDN and others.
For installers, network maintenance staff and end-users in both residential and commercial environments, the noted trends mean a greater demand for handheld instrumentation that can handle the whole spectrum of VDV testing and troubleshooting requirements. These testers can come with a variety of features and capabilities that allow them to be tailored to specific requirements and situations.