Microwaves & RF interviews Alex Goloschokin, Managing Director of Copper Mountain Technologies.
NF: Copper Mountain Technologies is a fresh face in the microwave and RF test and measurement market. How long has the company been around?
AG: In its current structure, Copper Mountain Technologies has existed for one year. However, our development and production team just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Before rebranding and reorganizing in October of 2011, our company made telecom, RF, and microwave components and test instrumentation for the European and Asian markets.
NF: The best known Copper Mountain in this country is in Colorado. Why did you name the firm “Copper Mountain Technologies?” And who came up with the name?
AG: Yes, we’ve received inquiries about ski passes more than a few times! Unfortunately for those callers, our expertise is… ice hockey. Just kidding, it is actually in microwave and RF test equipment. Our company is named after a different Copper Mountain, which is located in the South Ural Mountain Ridge [in central Russia]. Chelyabinsk, home to our manufacturing facility, is located in this region. Our company’s name is a tribute to the rich history of the region. It brings together old-world craftsmanship with modern technological advancements (created by highly talented engineers and researchers—many of whom are graduates of South Ural University, a well-known engineering school).
The Mistress of the Copper Mountain is a well-known Russian sorceress from the tales of writer Pavel Bazhov. Drawing on the mining folklore of the South Ural Mountain region, Bazhov wrote several stories (The Mistress of the Copper Mountain, The Malachite Casket, and The Stone Flower) about the mineral-rich mountains and their mysterious spirit. The mythical “mistress,” who could change into a lizard, was a guiding force for the hard-working miners of the mountain. She protected them in exchange for their complete loyalty and respect for the land.The traditional values of loyalty and respect for our customers are the foundational elements of Copper Mountain Technologies’ corporate culture.
NF: How many employees do you have? And how many of those are engineers?
AG: Our vector-network-analyzer (VNA) development team counts 15 engineers. And there are over 70 highly qualified technicians in the VNA production line and quality control. Our Indianapolis facility conducts global business development and sales activities. Customer support is also provided by two of our engineers in Indianapolis.
NF: What challenges have you had getting started as a company?
AG: The VNA market is dominated by several well-known and highly respected providers. Our biggest challenge is overcoming our customers’ brand loyalty to those manufacturers. However, at less than one-half the price, dimensions, and weight—accompanied by equal or better performance—our VNAs sell themselves once engineers get a chance to use them. We also have been fortunate to develop relationships with highly reputable and respected manufacturers’ reps in the microwave and RF industry. They have done an outstanding job introducing their customers to our solutions.
NF: You are incorporated in Indianapolis. What made you choose Indiana over, say, Silicon Valley in California?
AG: Indianapolis has been my home for the past 22 years—many of which were spent working in international sales and business development at the Commtest Division of JDSU (formerly Wavetek/WWG/Acterna). It offers a lot of advantages. Indiana is rapidly gaining the reputation of being a viable alternative to the cutthroat coasts and their exorbitant cost of doing business. The rise of Indiana’s tech sector also has been nurtured by high-profile initial public offerings, several Indiana-based technology firms breaking into national “Best Of” and “Fastest Growing” lists, and the efforts of organizations like TechPoint, IEDC, Verge, and numerous university-outreach initiatives. Indianapolis offers a fast-growing high-tech community, a world-class airport, and Lucas Oil Stadium—the location for the professional football championship, Super Bowl 2012. Go Colts!
NF: Copper Mountain offers a “virtual vector network analyzer.” Please define this virtual instrumentation.
AG: By the definition first introduced by National Instruments, a virtual instrument is an instrument that consists of a hardware RF measurement module, the external processing module (a PC), and a software package that operates the measurement module and provides users with the user interface (UI).
NF: What advantages would you say a virtual VNA has over a traditional instrument?
AG: The biggest benefit of the virtual VNA is that users can take advantage of the processing power, bigger display, and more reliable performance of an external PC, while simplifying maintenance of the analyzer. Virtual VNAs are flexible. They can be easily adapted to multiple users and are well-suited for lab, production, field, and secure testing environments. Not to mention that they are significantly less expensive!
NF: How do you expect this virtual instrumentation to change the test and measurement market, if at all?
AG: As previously discussed, the biggest benefits of the virtual format are much lower price point, smaller footprint, light weight, and operation from any external PC. All of these aspects will make our VNAs very attractive to both development labs and production environments. For example, our small R54 reflectometer (patent currently pending) can be easily introduced to every workstation at any manufacturing facility that produces RF cables, antennas, connectors, etc.—no matter how limited those workstations are in terms of space. We hope that, by virtue of introducing the VNA en masse to production and quality control, RF and microwave equipment manufacturers will be able to significantly improve their manufacturing processes.
NF: What’s next for Copper Mountain Technologies in terms of product development?
AG: Our short-term (next few months) plans include releasing a 2x8 4-GHz port extender for our current line of two-port VNAs. In the December/January timeframe, we are planning on launching a four-port, 8-GHz model as well as a new series of small and lightweight analyzers, which will include 50-Ω, 20-kHz-through-4.8-GHz and 75-Ω, 20-kHz-through-3.0-GHz VNAs. Both the 50- and 75-Ω analyzers in this series will be available in one-path (TR) and full two-path iterations. We are also planning to deliver revisions to our software. They will include additional features and functionality in addition to implementing our customers’ recommendations on UI improvement in 2013.