Cable operators face a big challenge today as data utilization continues to increase on their networks. Keeping up with the demand for high quality services while upgrading network infrastructure seems to be a never-ending task. Many times, network upgrades are done without much help from tools and systems, leaving it mostly based on experience and performance indicators defined by the operator. Unfortunately, this is the reality for far too many service providers today.
It is indeed a complex task that involves multiple variables as well as a corporate strategy — because budget is not infinite. If you have a network running below its maximum capacity you are losing money and investing more than the necessary amount to provide the services generating revenue. On the other hand, if you are running a saturated network you will run into customer complaints by under-delivering on what you promised. This may cause customers to leave your network in search of better services from your competitors.
Being on top of network capacity planning is more than an engineering task. It is a corporate strategy to balance investment and quality of service. Indicators like level of channel utilization, nodes, and service groups can provide some insight into the areas that may need attention. However, to do the right job you need more information tied to these indicators.
Here are some important questions to ask when analyzing indicators of network capacity:
- How often are nodes congested?
- What time of day are the congestions occurring?
- Are these congestions recurring or isolated instances?
- How many subscribers are impacted by the congestions?
- Are these premium subscribers or low-tier subscribers?
- Is there a trend of increased usage on the congested areas?
- What is causing the congestion? An increase in traffic, or are there too many subscribers to the node?
These are just a few of the questions you have to ask in order to better plan your network upgrades. Do you have all this information easily on hand today?
Better Analytics and Decision Making
Having all the information on hand is the first step when making better decisions to more efficiently execute capacity planning strategies. Once you have the key indicators for your analysis, you need to set the rules for your investments. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a budget to upgrade every single node or CMTS that you would like to, so you need to define rules to pick and prioritize the upgrade order. For instance, are you upgrading CMTS units with the highest congestion or are you more concerned with the location, for instance the highest number of impacted subscribers? Do you care to check for the location with the most premium customers or should they all be treated equally? These business decisions are unique to your strategy and no software or solution can help you choose what’s most important.
In addition to more efficient capacity planning, there are multiple methods to reduce congestion on your network. You can move subscribers from one node to another, you can add more channels to your node, or you can upgrade devices from DOCSIS 2.0 to 3.0 or 3.1 so they can use more channels and work more efficiently. Part of capacity planning is understanding the short-term and long-term benefit of each method available.
Getting The Right Tool for the Job
There is always the right tool for the job. You can try to use pliers instead of a wrench but you won’t get the same results, and results may not be consistent when the wrong tools are used.
Trying to use spreadsheets to estimate your future network congestions and do your capacity planning is not only time-consuming, but it can also be very expensive. Results will not be consistent and mistakes can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in ineffective investments.
To complete the job of accurate capacity planning, you need a solution that can understand, predict, and define the impact of network congestions. Your solution should bring together subscriber information and network resource utilization in a single location, providing data analytics that can use configurable metrics to calculate congestions and prevent its impacts on your network and your subscribers.
The most optimal solution will look at the past to predict the future, providing trends and patterns based on both subscriber and network traffic growth to help you decide where investments need to be made.
Beyond this, you need to find a solution provider that is invested in new technology and innovation. One that can assist your network planning on an ongoing basis to always give you the right tool for the job.
Planning For Changes
How often has the Marketing or Product department come to ask the cost of upgrading existing subscriber plans? Have you ever been able to provide a reliable cost of network upgrades needed to support these changes?
If Marketing tells you they would like to change a Silver Plan that has 20Mb/s of downstream and 2Mb/s of upstream to a 30Mbs/5Mbs and asks the cost of the upgrade, the question internally should be: how much more traffic will this add to my network? What nodes will get into a congested state by the traffic increase caused by this plan? What nodes and service groups will I need to upgrade for this, and how much this is going to cost me?
Can you quickly provide an answer to these questions today?
Learn how to hasten your access to information to achieve better and more efficient execution for capacity planning strategies at the upcoming Incognito Webinar, Capacity Planning: Smart Network Insights for Cable