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NXTcomm: Spirent Handheld Tests MoCA-Based In-Home Networks

06-17-08, by Tim McElligott

Spirent Communications built a home networking mockup on the show floor at NXTcomm this week to demonstrate the capabilities of its latest handheld tool for isolating and testing IP video networks inside the home.

Spirent introduced the Tech-X Flex, the first quality tester to support testing of IP video service quality over Multimedia over Coax (MoCA) networks. Spirent Tech-X Flex also supports current and future in-home networking technologies, including Ethernet and WLAN.

The handheld device can distinguish between and isolate service-related issues from network-related issues inside the home. It also allows passive testing of the video service over the MoCA interface.

Sean Yarborough, director of marketing for strategy, partnership and field test solutions at Spirent Communications, said that through the course of developing service assurance tools for triple-play services, the biggest gap for technicians to troubleshoot was in the home. �Service providers have spent billions on the access network and billions on the core Ethernet/IP network, yet they have no visibility inside the home until the technician walks into that home,� he said.

The test tool can be used by both cable and telco technicians for installation and maintenance of IP video services. Olga Yashkova, industry analyst for measurement and instrumentation at Frost & Sullivan, said that, to date, handheld and remote diagnostic solutions could only troubleshoot problems outside the home. She said, �With Spirent Tech-X Flex, field technicians can confidently validate the in-home network, thereby minimizing misdiagnosis and expensive replacement of customer premise equipment with no resolution to the problem.�

Yarborough said it is the only solution that allows technicians to conduct in-home qualification of MoCA along with 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11 networks in a single unit. The 802.11 port also can be used to communicate with remote Tier II technical support. The Tech-X Flex also is the first handheld tester to support a dual MoCA test interface for in-home networks. It uses a video version of the traditional Mean Opinion Score (MOS) for quality.

�The challenge from a service perspective is that many of the video-on-demand solutions use proprietary signaling between the set-top box and the video server. So field techs don�t have the ability to isolate problems that are video related versus Ethernet transport or at the physical layer,� Yarborough said. �So we have come out with a passive approach toward testing video which allows them to emulate exactly what the customer is doing.�

Automated diagnostics accelerate the field-troubleshooting process by analyzing and correlating various test results to identify faults and prioritize those with the greatest impact on service. By using this solution, service providers reduce their repeat rates for network installation and repair and shorten their job completion times.

The tool will ship in the third quarter and currently is being used in field trials.