GERMAIN LAMONDE EXFO Q&A
for the launch of those first products on the market, and some of our first customers were Bell Canada; Bell Atlantic, NYNEX and GTE Telecom (now all part of Verizon); France Telecom; and Ameritech. The long succession of ground- breaking innovations which followed and for which EXFO is renowned, has changed the way fibre optics could be tested and deployed. The company now delivers 60%+ in average annual growth and now controls over 40% of the world market in optical communications testing. We keep pushing the envelope with new innovations, like the first optical fibre multimeter (Optical Xplorer™), a new category of fibre testing solution launched at ANGA COM and Fiber Connect this year. In a nutshell, EXFO is a company that believed that with the right mix of talent, innovation and team work, it could fulfil the mission statement I wrote in the summer of 1985 while sitting on the balcony of my student apartment: “to become the uncontested world market leader by focusing on excellence and people.” GL: I think we’ve built a reputation over the last thirty-four years as a “radical innovator” that operators can always count on to bring the most advanced solutions to the market. We tackle the challenges our customers bring to us by applying out-of-the-box thinking to ensure we come up with solutions that are radically disruptive, and often well ahead of what our customers would have asked for. We come to market with solutions that are twenty percent better and twenty percent cheaper than anything the competition can provide. EXFO is known for disruptive innovations that change the game. Indeed, new products like our Optical XplorerTM line do just that. It’s an entirely new industry category. PD: How has EXFO addressed the shortage of skilled technicians in the optical communications industry? GL: We’ve put ourselves in the shoes of the front-line technicians who install FTTH; FTTC or fibre to small/micro-cell. We know that the UK and Germany are among the countries that have massive plans going in that direction. We are currently the market leader in FTTH, with over fifty percent of global market share for helping operators to deliver FTTH. We were the very first in the industry with Verizon’s FiOS project back in 2003. We currently work with around four hundred operators globally as their supplier of choice to build FTTH. We believe that by putting automation and intelligence in the test sets, we can reduce requirements for training. If you’re in the UK for example, you can train people easily, but in more remote places it’s often more PD: How would you characterise EXFO’s current market position?
difficult to get access to fully trained technicians.
PD: What about the future, which promises new technologies such as PAM4 and coherent? Are you planning for a future that perhaps few of us can yet see? GL: With our strong innovation capabilities, we’ve expanded beyond fibre optic testing into high-speed optical testing like 200G or 400 Gbit/s and advanced lab and factory test systems. We’ve also branched out into large scale software-intensive systems that combine active, passive, fibre and RF monitoring systems with highly advanced big data analytics and AI algorithms to take network automation to a new level. We can now collect and analyse as much as 100 Tb of data or more in real time to prioritize the problems that may exist at any given time in very large-scale networks. Our technology automatically determines the most likely root cause of these problems, often predicts problems before their effects are felt, and dramatically reduces resolution times during massive network outages—often from as much as 10–15 hours to just 1–2 minutes! We are working with all key system vendors, all webscale operators (Google, etc.) and 95 of the world’s 100 largest network operators (nearly 2,000 operator customers in total) to ensure we are already tackling the problems that will be important to them in the future. We’ve remained true to our tradition of trying to see as far ahead as we can so we can plan and execute better. With nearly 2,000 employees in over 25 countries, some US$300 million in revenues and about US$4 billion in cumulative revenues, we are proud of our accomplishments and continue to build on our strong tradition as an innovative disruptor. GL: Operators around the world now know they can rely on EXFO to bring them the next level of innovation. They understand that EXFO products and solutions from our Test & Measurement and SASS (Service Assurance, Systems & Services) divisions are worth more and won’t let them down. To me, it’s a real privilege to have operators from around the globe come to us to share their transformation strategies and the complex challenges they are facing because they’ve come to see us as a trusted strategic partner with an important role to play in their growth. All PD: How would you sum up EXFO’s market advantage? this is made possible thanks to an amazing team and company-wide culture that cherishes innovation, trust, employee contributions and all-around excellence.
said, “No, we’re not going to go in that direction. I don’t believe in it.” So, I asked him if it was OK if I set up my own company. He replied, “Kid, you’ll fall on your face,” and told me that I was sure to fail. In hindsight, it was the best answer I could have hoped for; I was determined to prove him wrong. PD: You obviously didn’t have much money to get started. How did you manage to parlay that simple idea into such a successful global enterprise? GL: I started EXFO with C$100, then borrowed close to C$100,000 through some government programs that existed at the time in Quebec. It was barely enough to cover the design costs of the first two products: a modular optical power meter and an optical light source. With the launch date for the products fast approaching, I entered a business start-up competition sponsored by Université Laval and Desjardins Group. First prize was C$25,000 for the best business plan submitted by students or recent grads. The plan I submitted was, for all intents and purposes, EXFO’s first five-year plan. We really needed the money, and fortunately, we won, which helped pay
ISSUE 18 | Q3 2019
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