Telco Platform for Managing Devices Moves to Cable Space

John Grady, sales director, Americas, applications software & service, Pace plc

John Grady, sales director, Americas, applications software & service, Pace plc

July 25, 2012 – After a long period of reluctance to embrace the obvious, North American MSOs are poised to begin aggressively exploiting the CPE-management capabilities of the telephone industry’s TR-069 and related protocols as an essential means of expanding their service portfolios.
“Large cable companies are going down that path,” says John Grady, sales director, Americas, for application software and services at Pace plc. “The top four or five MSOs in the U.S. are either in or about to into the RFP process. We’ll see some initial trial deployments this year with launches coming in 2013.”

Technical Report-069, more formally known as the CPE Wide Area Network Management Protocol (CWMP), was first published in 2004 by the DSL Forum, now called the Broadband Forum, as a standardized means of managing IP-capable devices connected on the home network. Specifications provide an application layer protocol for remote management of devices through an auto-configuration server (ACS) with capabilities that include dynamic configuration for adjusting device functions to new enhancements or specific end user needs and monitoring functions that facilitate trouble shooting and data collection.

According to a survey released in June by researcher Ovum on behalf of the Broadband Forum, there are now over 147 million CPE devices managed worldwide using TR-069, including 28.2 million in the Americas, 59.8 million in the Asia Pacific region and 46.7 million in Europe. As previously reported (October 2010, p. 20), cable modem manufacturers in some parts of the world began including support for TR-069 in their devices over two years ago, leading at least one provisioning vendor, Incognito Software, to include the platform in its provisioning system.

But aside from some early uptake in Japan and Latin America, the cable world has been slow to embrace the technology, largely because the need to manage IP devices was limited until the recent surge in multiscreen TV service strategies and implementations of new connected-home services such as security and energy management. Meanwhile, the Broadband Forum has been expanding capabilities with new extensions and formalizing the conformance testing process through a beta testing process managed by Independent Labs UNH-IOL, says Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum.

“As the number and range of new devices continues to grow, particularly in home networking and in enterprise communications, in the retail environment and M2M [machine-to-machine] amongst others, interoperability and consistent protocol adherence will be key factors,” Mersh says. “Device conformance is a critical first step towards ensuring interoperability.”

CWMP operates on a client/server architecture controlled by one or more ACSs located in the operator’s network using a set of client-based tools that support service assurance in NAT (Network Address Translation) -based environments regardless of whether firewalls are present. DOCSIS-enabled gateways can be connected to the ACS with the use of DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) so that when the gateway goes into operation it will automatically send a request for an ACS connection.

To accommodate the many applications that must be monitored for performance in the multi-device cable service environment the Broadband Forum has made room for vendor implementations of the required capabilities on gateways via the TR-098 extension. In early 2011 the Forum went further with release of a next-generation Device Data Model (TR-181, v.2) to overcome problems encountered with complex device configurations on the former Internet Gateway Device data model.

Other device-specific extensions are meant to accommodate versioning models, use profiles and data models for set-top boxes (TR-135); VoIP CPE (TR-110); femto access points (TR-196); PON (passive optical network) devices (TR-142); storage service devices (TR-140), and devices managed by gateways (TR-111). How these tools are applied to enable comprehensive service assurance across the home network will depend on the requirements set by operators and executed by service assurance system suppliers.

In 2010 Pace acquired 2Wire, which was instrumental in developing the specs that became TR-069, thereby becoming a leading supplier of management platforms that leverage the capabilities of the CWMP domain. Through a new unit, the Worldwide Application Software Service Group, Pace offers a Component Management System (CMS) on the TR-069 foundation and a Software Management System (SMS) as an extraction layer that ties the CMS into the business rules engine, billing systems and other back-office components to expedite provisioning, upselling and troubleshooting.

For example, the product portfolio includes a care agent desktop dashboard that helps customer service and tech personnel quickly identify problems whether they’re originating on the network or on devices in the home. “With business logic and data from multiple sources we can quickly isolate the problem an individual user might be having to the WAN, the LAN or the device,” John Grady says. “There are no wild goose chases with wasted behavior in truck rolls, devices swaps and other measures. It really tightens up operating expenses.”

Now on the third generation CMS, Pace is supporting many networks service providers through its own call centers, which handle over seven million calls per year, Grady says. “Feedback from these operations has been instrumental in helping us to evolve the CMS,” he notes. “Having to scale and integrate new extensions into our own operating environment gives us assurance these advances can be applied by our network operating customers in their in-house customer care environments as well.”

In promoting the capabilities of a TR-069-optimized CMS to the cable industry, Pace makes the case that integration of IP-connected device management with the entire OSS domain across over 3,000 data parameters provides cable operators a way to continually add new services without having to reconfigure the operations center. “As cable operators deploy wireless connectivity for delivering TV services to connected devices, home automation services, healthcare services and other new products, TR-069 becomes a key enabler,” Grady explains.

While initial applications have been focused on cable modem gateways, “we’re starting to see the set-top box enter the CMS space,” he says. “As service complexity increases we’re all about simplifying operations.”