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Scope bandwidth race heats up

Jessy Cavazos -April 02, 2013

Oscilloscopes represent the largest revenue-generating product category in the General Purpose Test and Measurement (T&M) industry. It is estimated to have reached around $1.1 to $1.2 billion globally in 2012 (research is still in progress). This includes a wide range of devices from handhelds to high-performance bench instruments. On the high-performance end of the market, a handful of companies (namely Tektronix, Agilent Technologies and Teledyne LeCroy) are competing aggressively with regard to bandwidth. The race towards higher bandwidth in real-time oscilloscopes is not new, but bandwidth certainly remains the number specification for oscilloscopes. The level to which it has been pushed and where industry participants are looking to take it simply attracts the attention and commends admiration due to the technical challenges these companies have to overcome to provide it.

The really high bandwidth requirements are driven by certain applications like laser, high energy physics, and fringe-kind of applications. As such, it is not a high volume market and detractors might argue that there is no significant need for higher bandwidth. To the contrary, it is a critical part of the market as it is in essence the technological engine of the industry. By working on pushing the technological barriers in oscilloscopes further and further out, companies increase their knowledge about the technology and discover new ways to improve it. Eventually, it trickles down to the more mainstream segments. While today it may be hard to see a significant need for such high bandwidth for the mainstream market, let’s remember that just 10 to 15 years ago, 1 GHz was the high end of the market.

The high end of the market is currently at 65 GHz, but much higher bandwidth will be available in the near future. A 70 GHz oscilloscope will be available from Tektronix in 2014 as announced recently, while Teledyne LeCroy announced last year 100 GHz for 2013.

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About the Author
Jessy Cavazos is the Industry Director for Frost & Sullivan’s Test & Measurement research group. Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants. For more information on Frost & Sullivan’s Test & Measurement research or any questions on this article, you can contact Jeannette Garcia at Jeannette.Garcia@frost.com or 210.477.8427.  

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