Keysight’s new approach to market and technology

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In a special interview to coincide with the Electronica 2016, Benoit Neel, European general manager at Keysight Technologies tells about the T&M firm’s new business strategy and how its semiconductor technologies will lead to 1.5THz frequency analysis.

How would you say Keysight Technologies has changed in business model and approach to the market in the last two years?

Benoit Neel: We have been transforming from a product-centric hardware company to a software-centric solutions company. In November 2015, we announced a new business organisational structure designed to align the company’s activities with the development of products and services focused on the needs of the customer. The changes include a centralised corporate planning and technology team, and three customer-focused business groups. These address our communications, electronic industrial and services businesses.

Can you give examples of how this has benefited the product strategy?

Benoit Neel: As part of our focus on the communication industry, we have committed to win in 5G wireless communications. We are making solid progress, including developing next generation technologies and systems and engaging early with partners. For example, in the most recent quarter of this financial year, 5G orders continued to outpace our expectations.

Our growth in 5G is driven by demand for our millimetre-wave systems, including over-the-air, channel sounding and massive MIMO (multi-input multi-output) antenna systems.

In July, we introduced the industry’s first all-in-one signal optimiser software for designing 5G candidate waveforms. This enables R&D engineers to validate their designs by simplifying the critical design tasks related to signal creation and analysis.

At European Microwave week, last month, we launched the world’s first milli-meter wave solution on our UXA signal analyser platform, providing frequency coverage to 110GHz with a maximum analysis bandwidth of up to 5GHz.

Our acquisition of Anite a year ago enhances our wireless protocol capabilities and software portfolio. The team recently added to the Propsim F32 channel emulator, which carries out performance assessment of LTE small cells.

Has the company’s view of the market changed and has the product roadmap been modified?

Benoit Neel: Currently, we are seeing customers increase investment in next-generation technologies such as 5G, optical networks for data centres, leading-edge semiconductor processes and high-performance wireless-LAN chipsets. The mega trend driving development of these technologies is the increasing reliance on electronic and digital communications and the growing number of connected devices from small personal devices like heart/exercise monitors to highly sophisticated, connected vehicles.

Our core markets remain which are communications, where 5G opportunities will continue to present themselves over the next 5-10 years as customers require new tools and applications, and aerospace/defence, industrial, computers, semiconductors and services and support. We are focusing more in the service and support area, which underscores our initiative to grow the services business through multi-vendor calibration and asset management.

Regarding your question about product roadmaps, adopting leading-edge technology is key to creating competitive advantage and serving customers. When the required technology is available we make use of it. If a critical technology is not available, we may develop it internally.

As an example we have our internal III-V fab. Our InP (indium phosphide) process is a key capability, originating in the microwave products but we’re now applying it to high-speed oscilloscopes and waveform generators.

For our modular instruments and solutions over this past year, we grew our core catalogue and have more than 150 modular products.  Hardware is foundational, but we are shifting the company to software-centric solutions. Already, the company supplies a range of software, both for electronic design automation (EDA) and for test applications.

Our EDA software tools are playing a significant role in early 5G work around the world. Customers use EDA to validate designs in “virtual” form; they use our measurement systems to validate those same designs in physical form.

What is the most important market opportunity?

Benoit Neel: It is critical that as a company we remain in tune to customers as their needs change in this ever-evolving industry. As different technologies are needed for unique customer solutions. we help them move forward in their design and measurement needs. We often say that we go wherever the electronic signal goes. With that type of openness, we see many opportunities ahead of us to help our customers deliver breakthrough electronic products to market faster and at a lower cost.

What is the most crucial technology?

Benoit Neel: It has been said that the next breakthrough of an undiscovered technology is just around the corner. And with our offering of solutions and services for leading-edge electronic design and test, we have helped many of the world’s greatest visionaries and innovators achieve the elusive breakthroughs that advance technology.

Our recent announcement Virginia Diodes and by Chalmers University of Technology to create the first system for network, spectrum analysis up to 1.5THz has some exciting potential in uncharted waters in materials, devices, and circuits for applications at micro-, millimetre- and sub-millimetre-wave frequencies.

To complement and supplement our internal R&D, we interact with other companies, national and industrial laboratories, and universities, consortia, standards bodies, and joint projects. We put a special focus on interactions with universities as they are key customers, technology leaders, and sources of future talent. We recently announced our university engagement programme with leading European universities to further these efforts.

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