Applications such as voice over Internet protocol and IP multimedia subsystems are being credited with bringing about a "massive increase in network traffic," and by extension the total broadband lines in Europe, which grew by more than 65.0 per cent in 2004, according to recent Frost & Sullivan research.
The United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and Italy registered the highest growth.
And Frost & Sullivan forecasts that as service providers continue to roll out a rich variety of content such as Internet Protocol television and IMS, which require reliable and high-speed connections, the demand for more bandwidth will fuel growth in the European communication test equipment market.
There's no shortage of vendors wanting in on the action: At the recently concluded Broadband World Forum (Europe) in Madrid, Telecom Austria announced the launch of triple play services by the end of this year, with more countries promising to deploy triple play services in the near future.
And the burgeoning IPTV field, which uses Internet Protocol to distribute video/television signals, is gaining momentum, creating another good market opportunity for test equipment vendors -- both at the time of deployment as well as during the functioning of these networks.
A good testing product should offer multiple benefits, such as integrated network and application layer testing for both QoS and Quality of Experience, real application traffic emulation on a per flow basis, extensive real-time analysis, flexibility, full RFC compliance and automation of networks under test.
With all the convergence creating more complex communications systems and networks, Frost & Sullivan finds "the increased need for test equipment is ensuring better opportunities for vendors in the European communication test equipment market."
But the problem, as the technology research and forecasting firm sees it, is that there's a dearth of market awareness among end-users. This ignorance, Frost & Sullivan's research finds, is "proving a challenge for vendors of communication test equipment."
The industry's not exactly in the flusher. The overall European communication test equipment market totalled $311.1 million in 2004 and is likely to reach $580.5 million in 2008. Among the product segments, demand for fibre optic test equipment and digital subscriber line test equipment was the highest. As DSL is the most popular access technology in Europe the demand for DSL test equipment is seen as most likely to increase.
But still, Frost & Sullivan researchers have found, the availability of low-cost, reduced-feature test equipment is seen as a "good enough" substitute for the top-shelf products vendors want to sell. In the case of VoIP Skype is held up as an example of a product that's free of cost, leading end-users to disregard the need for test equipment.
"While test equipment vendors are working towards educating and increasing awareness among end-users of test equipment, the absence of a clear set of standard testing metrics and performance values that service providers can refer to is an additional cause for concern," notes Frost & Sullivan's Research Analyst Team.
As there are no set of specific tests that vendors can deploy while testing networks, "they are facing questions from service providers regarding what they are supposed to test, how the test should be conducted and which results are acceptable and which are not," Frost & Sullivan writes.
David Sims is contributing editor for TMCnet. For more articles please visit David Sims' columnist page