Partner Resources

Proactively Managing Broadband Services in Today’s Highly Connected World

By Pete Koat, Chief Operating Officer at Incognito Software Systems

Introduction

Success in today’s world of broadband services management hinges on the three “P”s: predicting, preventing, and being proactive. Fixing failures is no longer sufficient – today’s customers expect always-on, always-fast service.

It might be a high bar to meet, but if you do, the rewards are considerable: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, and a healthy bottom-line.

So, how do you get there?

AI-driven closed-loop automation is a key component in proactive broadband assurance. By detecting network anomalies, triaging, and implementing the required changes within a continuous highly automated framework, closed-loop automation helps address issues before they become problems.

This is especially important as the landscape becomes more complex and the market more competitive, driven by current and ongoing challenges.

What’s ahead

Telecommunications has always been an industry based on research, development, innovation, and advancements. With the added factor of the global pandemic that changed the needs and expectations of consumers to manage their business and personal lives, the ever-present evolution in the broadband world felt more like a revolution.

Whether it’s an evolution or a revolution, it isn’t over. Change has been one of the major themes of the last few years – especially in the world of broadband services management – and there’s more coming in the areas of broadband usage/volume of connected users, technology innovation, and OPEX (operational expenditure) reduction.

1) Broadband usage / user volume

With businesses and individuals increasingly using bandwidth-intensive services like video and augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) – all of which require low-latency delivery – consumption continues to grow. Overall, operators are handling more traffic than ever. Peak hours haven’t gone away, but with usage patterns constantly shifting, it’s increasingly difficult for service providers to predict when those peaks will hit. Delivering a high-quality subscriber experience in the face of all this uncertainty is a huge challenge.

The work-from-home/remote-based learning conditions of the pandemic accelerated the concept of broadband as a necessity, a utility, and even a basic right.

The increasing focus on reaching underserved areas – driven by both government mandates and the opportunities of reaching this untapped consumer base – puts pressure on operators to find the right way to expand and upgrade their networks, whether it be through fiber, 5G mobile, or fixed wireless access (FWA).

Yesterday’s resources won’t allow operators to meet the bandwidth and access demands of the future. Service providers must incorporate new skillsets into their workforce, build teams equipped to manage evolving networks, and understand and respond to back-office impacts – and they must do all this while maintaining profitability.

Operators must answer big questions and challenges around speed-to-market, controlling OPEX and CAPEX (capital expenditure), and ensuring ROI (return on investment).

2) Technology evolution and innovation

It’s almost redundant to talk about technology advancing. However, there are some particular areas worth noting. The above-mentioned push to reach underserved areas, and to satisfy the growing demand for sufficient broadband coverage, means investment in next-generation fiber and 5G networks will continue. To truly realize a return on this investment, operators will need a higher degree of automation from their back-office systems in the form of a holistic platform that provides the flexibility to easily configure and launch new services while also managing devices from any equipment vendor to drive quality of experience.

What’s more, shrinking profit margins, rising operating costs, and increased customer expectations put tremendous pressure on service providers to do more with less. That’s where pay-as-you-go, out-of-the-box, subscription-based cloud solutions can save the day. Shifting IT infrastructure to the cloud is becoming more prevalent as it offers operators more business flexibility without a substantial CAPEX investment, a predictable operational expense model, and the flexibility to scale for future growth. Fortunately, operators can turn to trusted vendors to help them move their systems to the cloud and provide their employees with the skills they need to execute and manage this vision.

3) High OPEX

Operators face a number of difficulties when it comes to working with multiple access technologies and vendors which impact time-to-market for broadband services and OPEX. Without the ability to respond to growing customer demands using a centralized system, service providers are left frustrated with manual processes, fragmented B/OSS stacks, and standalone network operations teams. This complexity can have significant business impacts including massive IT costs, delayed launch of new products, and poor service quality. The need to move to automation, using a centralized system, is critical to gain a holistic view of the network, get customers up and running faster, eliminate “swivel chair” management, and simplify network planning processes significantly.

Operator Barriers

Being proactive in the face of fast-paced market- and industry-trends like those mentioned above can be a major challenge for service provider, as illustrated in the results of the Broadband Service Management section of the 2022 Telecoms.com Annual Industry Survey, which reveals:

  • One quarter of operators are using separate systems to provision, access, and manage devices.
  • Almost another quarter say they aren’t managing CPE (customer premise equipment) devices.
  • Three-quarters of operators say their current operational and maintenance processes are executed manually, or partially automated for basic specific, repetitive tasks.

If happier customers, lower costs, and internal efficiencies are the reward for moving toward closed-loop automation, what’s holding operators back? The Annual Industry Survey highlights the following challenges with achieving zero-touch broadband network resource and service management:

  • Fully half of respondents are constrained by legacy infrastructure.
  • 40 percent are hampered by siloed operations across technologies.
  • A third struggle to cope with growing multi-vendor network environments
  • Nearly another third lack proper analytics or insights
  • More than a quarter face manual incident processes and/or workflows.

Bridging gaps and removing silos

Predicting, preventing, and being proactive sounds great, but for those limited by older systems, or systems that can’t integrate/interoperate, moving forward can be hard. There are three main paths available to help overcome these challenges, each with its own set of benefits:

  1. Single-platform adoption for service activation, device lifecycle management, and subscriber connectivity.
  2. Centralized OSS (operational support systems) across multiple access networks.
  3. Vendor-/technology-agnostic broadband orchestration solution.

1) Single platform for service activation, device lifecycle management, subscriber connectivity

By introducing flexibility and removing complexity, a holistic platform can support subscriber growth and drive quality of experience with the following features:

  • Increased ARPU – enables deployment of new revenue-generating offerings into the connected home, including smart home services and managed Wi-Fi.
  • Vendor interoperability – achieves access network diversity and increases cost savings by allowing a mix-and-match of device vendors for converged access environment.
  • FTTx process automation – expedites the deployment of new services and innovations by rapidly introducing new network vendors and service variants without any B/OSS impacts.
  • Value-added services – allows centrally managed value-added service configuration in a vendor-agnostic and low-friction manner.
  • Zero-touch provisioning – enhances operational efficiency for field technicians and network operations personnel with hands-off automated device onboarding.

2) Centralized OSS across multiple access networks

By removing manual processes and improving business and customer visibility, a centralized OSS can drive innovation and deliver a seamless end-to-end experience, offering the following benefits:

  • Real-time order management and service provisioning – expedites new service offerings by allowing replication of product/service models across all business units and enables customer service teams to react in real time.
  • Closed-loop automationenables networks to react quickly, without human intervention, with self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing.
  • Service assurance – ensures service quality through performance tracking, alerts/notifications, anomaly flagging, etc., paired with issue resolution workflows.
  • Analytics – facilitates better and faster decision-making by connecting existing data into automated dashboards.

3) Vendor/technology-agnostic solution

The most obvious benefit of this solution is the flexibility and interoperability it affords, allowing operators to choose the best technology for their needs, and to integrate new technology into legacy systems. However, drilling down uncovers these additional benefits:

  • Cost savings – eliminates the need to purchase multiple technologies to support different platforms – connect all existing systems to a single source.
  • Consistency – provides a consistent user experience and normalized data when interacting with the platform by abstracting the differences of underlying systems.
  • Increased options/competition – offers further cost savings with the ability to choose from a wide range of vendors.
  • Future-proofing/scalability – allows integration with future technologies to support growth.

Gathering insights

It’s hard to predict customer needs, and build a system to proactively meet them, without understanding those needs, which is why the substantial number of operators who say they lack proper analytics or insights is a real concern.

“You don’t know what you don’t know” – it’s a saying used in many arenas. For service providers, the “not knowing” can lead to unexpected network bottlenecks, unexplained service degradations, and unhappy customers.

By “knowing” about subscriber behavior and service trends, instead of “not,” service providers can improve the quality of network services in the following ways:

  • Manage network performance.
  • Support the growing diversity of connected devices.
  • Find underlying causes of performance degradations.
  • Predict service quality changes/degradations.

It’s notable that over a quarter of the 2022 survey respondents answered, “We don’t do this,” when asked “How you gain subscriber insights?” Other answers included:

  • Data collection/traps from vendor EMS/NMS (25 percent)
  • Data collection/traps using SNMP (24 percent)
  • Deep packet inspection (DPI) (21 percent)

Only 11 percent said their current OSS supplies subscriber insights from the broadband network.

OSS integration can allow service providers to gain detailed insights into subscriber behavior and highlight trends in service to help them improve the quality of network services. With this knowledge of the key performance indicators (KPIs) affecting network performance, service providers can better manage it, and effectively support the growing diversity of connected devices.

Helping operators predict, prevent, and be proactive

At Incognito, broadband services management and interoperability is what we do. Or, more correctly, what we love to help operators do. That’s why we were so pleased to sponsor the Broadband Service Management section of this year’s Telecoms.com Annual Industry Survey.

Just like we want to help operators gather insight from their subscribers, we want insights into where service providers are now, and where they want to go.

This helps us continue to evolve our suite of award-winning solutions and services, which support automated service orchestration, fulfillment, and activation, end-to-end DOCSIS provisioning, centralized management and reporting of IP resources, unified next-gen remote device management, and actionable intelligence using network analytics.

These solutions can enable operators to overcome the challenges and meet the goals highlighted in the Annual lndustry Survey.

Conclusion:

Today’s communications market is competitive, margins are tight, and business and technology are increasingly complex.

At the same time, customers have high expectations for outstanding service all the time, on any device.

As an operator, your best defense is to keep your customers loyal, and even make them want to spend more with you – and you can do it.

With insight into their experience, you can predict their needs.

With analysis of network activity, you can prevent issues.

With an integrated, closed-loop system, you can proactively deliver the quality of service that will keep customers with you, and attract new ones.

And you don’t have to do it alone. Our proven Incognito solutions and services along with our experienced team members can understand, assess, and meet your needs. Contact us to find out how.


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