By Patrick Kinnerk, Incognito Software Systems Senior Product Manager
Initial adoptions of DOCSIS 3.1, the highly-anticipated CableLabs specification update packing 10x capacity increases over its predecessor, have already stirred up the global broadband community. Major MSOs such as Comcast, TDC-Denmark, and Cox have started initial implementations, paving the way for service providers that look to embark on a long and storied journey with the latest catalyst in broadband network innovation. In July 2016, Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) announced their plans to upgrade their hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network with the specification.
To your average broadband customer, DOCSIS 3.1 satisfies one craving—faster Internet speeds. Most Internet users don’t care how or why the specification works, they just want the end result. But is DOCSIS 3.1 enough on its own? The inherent increase for speed of Internet service may be enough for one aspect of service delivery satisfaction, but can service providers solve their provisioning and congestion issues and ensure a secure, evergreen network with just this one upgrade?
In my experience, there is much more to consider.
Along with the DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade, it’s crucial that provisioning systems are optimized. Here are three provisioning platform considerations that will help you maximize the value and deliver the full potential of DOCSIS 3.1.
- Automated Configuration File Validation
Automating validation of DOCSIS configuration files is essential for keeping processes quick and efficient while eliminating the risk of error. When a new DOCSIS device registers with your provisioning platform, you want the DOCSIS version of that device to be automatically detected from the information sent—streamlining the provisioning process while ensuring that Cable Modem (CM) configurations match activated services to satisfy the end user, while cutting OPEX for your Network Operations team.
The provisioning system should automatically track CMTS version, DOCSIS TLV parameter version, and DOCSIS CM version while building and validating configuration files. For example, if a CMTS is a DOCSIS 3.1 CMTS and the CM is determined to be a DOCSIS 2.0 CM, the provisioning platform should include DOCSIS TLV parameters that are defined within the system to be DOCSIS 2.0 or lower. This validates the accuracy of the configuration and ensures that configuration files can be used by the CMTS-CM system.
- Integration with Firmware Management Solutions
It will be much easier to deliver the speed and capacity of DOCSIS 3.1 if your subscribers’ devices are optimized to ensure that services run smoothly. Large operators with an abundant variety of devices in their customers’ homes need a provisioning solution that integrates and streamlines the firmware update process. Integrated firmware management solutions help operators stay on top of deploying the latest firmware to their DOCSIS CPEs and CMs, thus exposing end-users to the benefits of their devices latest features and reducing the chance of bricked devices and angry customers.
Optimized firmware management solutions have the ability to create, manage, and deploy firmware packages that work alongside normal device provisioning services. This can be accomplished with an automated classification or categorization of your networks’ devices into various criteria group, such as:
- Client Classes, which can be used to ensure that a set of network options are made available to a group of devices for configuration
- Device Classifiers, which enable you to classify devices based on some intrinsic property of the device, such as grouping DOCSIS devices together
- Classified Network Settings, which can further tailor the device configuration by applying settings to sub-groups of devices within a client class to match the device classifier
Keeping these categories on-hand not only simplifies the firmware process to evergreen CPE and keep subscribers happy, but as added bonus, they significantly reduce the time it takes to complete firmware updates, saving OPEX.
- Fraud Detection and Prevention System
Keeping your network free from fraud and theft of service is becoming a more common and pressing issue each year, and unfortunately the ubiquitous nature of DOCSIS devices makes them a prime target for nefarious Internet users. Theft of service and congestion caused by illegal service activities leads to revenue leakage as well as QoE concerns for paying subscribers, so having a provisioning system that can detect and prevent theft is vital when optimizing a DOCSIS 3.1 network.
To prevent fraud, provisioning platforms can be integrated with a centralized service that tracks and manages leases across your service network. A centralized lease service that automatically scans device leases to detect, intercept, and then ban illegitimate cases from the DOCSIS network can then use your provisioning system to accomplish the ban before it has a chance to negatively affect your legitimate users. Integration with these systems must be highly configurable to your business needs so that you can avoid flagging devices with legitimately duplicated leases, which may occur during normal network maintenance activities, such as CMTS node-splits.
One way to achieve this is to support membership types by the device MAC address and the relay agent gateway address. Setting complex criteria for a lease-validation system to operate within helps your provisioning platform gain the ability to accurately focus preventative measures on the right devices — ensuring fraudulent cases are stopped while keeping legitimate subscriber services operating as promised.
On its own, DOCSIS 3.1 offers significant speed and capacity increases and the potential for better end-user services. But to truly maximize its potential you need to optimize your provisioning platform at the same time.