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Top Five Challenges Keeping Cable MSOs Awake at Night

By Patrick Kinnerk on July, 29 2019

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Patrick Kinnerk

CableLabs Summer Conference is fast approaching! This niche multi-day event in Keystone, CO, happening August 5-7, 2019, features the latest developments from the cable industry and is attended by a wide range of technical experts. I’m looking forward to joining the conference as part of the Incognito Software Systems Inc. onsite team.

As Director of Product Management for the Incognito DOCSIS provisioning solution, I speak to global cable providers every day and discuss their challenges and priorities. As we look ahead to this summer's conference, I’d like to share the top 5 challenges that I hear consistently from cable MSOs around the globe. Some of these may surprise you!

What's the best approach to migrate to IPv6?

IPv6 is not a new concept or technology. The first MSOs started testing version 6 on their network around 10 years ago. But what is the optimal approach for implementation? Well, this problem has still not been fully solved. Many cable operators are still working on their strategy to migrate to IPv6. Cable operators are also still struggling with how to prepare the whole network for IPv6, getting everything from CPE devices to CMTS, to the core network ready. Some operators have multiple vendors, models, and firmware versions that need to be tested (and sometimes upgraded) to ensure a high level of customer experience. A firmware management tool like Incognito's Firmware Management System can help speed up the upgrade of the network to be ready for IPv6.

Cable MSOs are quickly becoming multi-access.

This is not a secret in the industry. Cable MSOs have been developing new lines of business in wireless to broaden their footprint and services offerings for many years now. This means new access technologies to learn and, more importantly, to operate. Fixed wireless is a big one, including using unlicensed spectrum, as is fiber. Network operations teams are very familiar and accustomed to using operational and engineering platforms dedicated to HFC. New access technologies bring new types of devices, vendors, and EMSs to integrate. How do you adapt existing business operational systems to these new technologies? How can you deliver services consistently across different platforms and access technologies (ex. cable, fiber, fixed wireless). These are the types of questions I hear on a regular basis. Incognito offers orchestration platforms that work across multiple access technologies to assist cable operators rolling out new technologies like fiber and fixed wireless.

How can I prevent theft of service?

This is an interesting one. The threat of cloned devices is very real for cable operators. This is when hackers can essentially clone existing devices, making their CM look like that of a valid subscriber who is paying for services from the operator. This essentially holds the same impact as theft of service, with hackers able to steal service by using bandwidth on the DOCSIS network, leaving less bandwidth available for paying subscribers. Even though they have cloned the CM of one subscriber, they are able to steal bandwidth from all subscribers on that part of the HFC network. It can be a huge PR nightmare, not to mention revenue leakage.

To maintain a secure network and avoid loss of revenue to cloned modems, operators require a comprehensive solution which is able to monitor and maintain the information (vendor, device type, firmware version) of any device across the network. Incognito’s Firmware Management Solution enables automatic discovery of cloned devices by comparing device credentials against its birth certificate and offers a customized approach to resolving fraud cases.

Virtualizing the CCAP core.

All of the equipment vendors are now offering various solutions for both virtualized CCAP core and Distributed Access Architecture devices such as Remote PHY devices and Remote MAC-PHY devices. These technologies are working hand in hand to provide operators with a very flexible architecture to solve their business needs. Many operators are already beginning to take advantage of these technologies in their networks to reduce power consumption costs, improve resiliency of the core network and robustness of the optical network, and to reduce operational costs for upgrading and maintaining their CMTS solutions.

DAA likely requires an investment in the outside HFC plant to support DAA. Moving the PHY or MAC+PHY layers out to the fiber node often requires some investment, not only in pulling fiber closer to the home but also in operational systems and skillsets to monitor and maintain that new outside plant equipment. Virtualizing the CCAP core is a big change in operational systems and skillsets for the headend team that have been maintaining traditional CMTS chassis systems for the past 20 years. Operational support systems, such as the DOCSIS and PacketCable provisioning solution, as well as the device firmware management system and historical lease solution must be flexible and able to adapt to the changing CMTS architectures that comply with the recent CableLabs standards advancements.

Delivering a great in-home Wi-Fi experience.

This continues to be a major challenge in terms of operational costs (and opportunity) for cable operators who want to create managed services for their customers to fully manage in-home Wi-Fi. One area is around proactive diagnostics – how to fix the problems before they impact experience. The other is around home user self-care – what are the options to give subscribers the tools to self-manage and resolve common network issues like changing passwords (yes, still the #1 reason prompting a technical assistance call to customer care), checking speed and Wi-Fi settings, and managing guest Wi-Fi networks.

Incognito’s Digital Home Experience Solution is designed to help operators deliver a great home network experience with new tools like self-care widgets that reduce operational costs and empower home users to manage their network experience.

I'll be at CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone (August 5-7, 2019). I look forward to discussing how Incognito can help you address your biggest challenges. See you in Keystone!

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