November 20, 2008, 11:35 AM — I spent the last two days in Huntsville Alabama on a press tour of Adtran. Huntsville is nice, and the Adtran people are even nicer. The press tour was a good idea, because they're a good company with too low a profile.
Part of Adtran's profile problem comes from making network equipment for big carriers, so they stay out of sight of the end user. Another reason they have too low a profile is they sell strictly through resellers, relying on them to contact the customer. It's nice to see Adtran wave their own flag a bit, but I don't expect them to run commercials during the Super Bowl.
While â€œnot boastfulâ€ about their company, according to their CEO, they are proud of their product support. All products come with either a five or 10 year warranty, and firmware upgrades are free. One reason they can give up to 10 years of warranty support is that their products have few moving parts (network switches, routers, and wireless access points may have a fan, but that's it). Plus, they design all their own products, including the power supply. Still, 10 years is about nine years longer than most tech companies stand behind their products.
Even better, newly hired engineers almost always start their Adtran career in the technical support department. When an Adtran support person answers the phone, they are sitting in Huntsville Alabama, and usually have an engineering degree. You get answers, not a bored recitation of a pre-written script designed to annoy you into hanging up and solving your own problem.
Unlike most other support departments, Adtran doesn't measure their techs on the number of calls turned over per day, but the number of customers satisfied. If your problem takes two hours to solve, they'll spend two hours on the phone with you to solve it. If your problem appears to be a software glitch that only appears in one bizarre situation, the technical support engineer can walk down the hall and talk to the software engineer who wrote the code. If your problem turns out not to be Adtran's fault but your carrier, your tech will conference in your carrier to explain exactly what the problem is and how your carrier should fix the problem.
Yes, many of Adtran's products fall into the â€œboring infrastructureâ€ category, and that's fine with them. They're proud (but not boastful) that customers put a switch in a wiring closet and forget about it. But boring wiring products become far too exciting when your network goes down. And if you have an Adtran product involved, an Adtran support engineer promises to make things right. If that means sending you a brand new, no charge warranty replacement for a piece of nine-year-old equipment, they'll do that.