Oct 14, 2015
By David Krhut
Is that "termination point" installed by the cable guy on your wall a passive or active "network termination point!?" A question to which majority of unknowing cable customers may not have any clue how to answer, let alone even understand it. Yet this part of cable market liberalization can have a significant impact on both camps - customers and cable providers.
Let's try to explain the difference without going too much into technical mumbo-jumbo. Many services provided by cable companies are delivered to the content-hungry customers through a "termination end-point" box that is usually placed somewhere in their apartment, in a closet or on a wall. This box is then connected to a router through which all the customer end-gadgets/devices get the connectivity and the latest dose of TV action, drama and fun.
This is where it gets really interesting. Depending on the various national legislations, the cable providers are sometimes able to claim that the router (which is basically an ordinary network device) connected to this termination point is an integral part of the network. Hence making the termination point (that is "feeding" the router) an in-between "active" part of the core network that nobody should ever touch because you could "endanger security of the core network." As result of this, "understanding," the customer is then forced to use only routers provided by the cable company. For example, if applied to a fixed telephony, then AT&T would be able to force you to use only AT&T approved fixed line handsets (and not those e.g. "funny" hamburger phones).
On other hand, if the enlightened national telecommunication regulator defines the termination point as "passive" ("the network ends before the router as an active terminal, the router is no longer "inseparable" part of the network,") the cable operators cannot claim that the router is part of their core network and the customer can then freely use a router provided by a 3 rd party.
Although this change does not look as earth-shaking as one would expect, it is an important step in providing the customer with much more options and freedom. The "lease" fees related to the connection equipment and most importantly control of the customer premise equipment (CPE) is perceived as significant leverage to keep the customer from changing or even terminating the contract.
While the change on the customer side is relatively easy and almost painless, technically they need to "just" change the router boxes. The impact on the BSS/OSS systems on the carrier side is much more challenging.
The biggest change that is most likely to be first recognized by customers is that the carriers will have to adjust their package offerings, (the listing of products will have to now include a "self-installation" option without the default CPE included into the main package). Although this may mean a direct revenue loss, the carriers can counterbalance this negative effect with new services for installation support options or additional (post-installation) support/troubleshooting assistance.
From a legal point of view, the contract terms and conditions wording must also be updated to redefine the changed customer and service provider responsibilities and to be clear on changed "Point of Demarcation" (who is responsible for what at which situation, e.g., the carrier cannot do much if subscriber somehow botched the installation of the router).
Realistically, although the subscribers should be "generally" free to connect "any" router, the cable provider must assure that the core transmission network is able to handle these new "alien" network end-point elements. This results in the creation of a sanctioned list of hardware equipment/manufacturers to be able to indicate to customers which boxes are likely to run without any problems in the network (or whether the cheaply bought box of questionable quality will provide just static noise) which basically means to create new certification processes for selection, negotiation and certification of the HW equipment from much broader range of manufacturers.
Once the list of the "deregulated" CPEs is known, all this technical information must be passed down to the support and also sales teams to be able to efficiently communicate with customers, whether it is fault investigation or up/cross-sell sales opportunities.
For example, the customer sales representatives should not know only the basic specifications of those CPEs and the subscriber responsibilities when operating them, but they should be also able to suggest suitable replacements (with proper accompanying price plans) in case that some equipment approaches its end of life/support.
Similarly, the field/support technicians must be trained to handle fault situations created by these "retail" CPEs. The level of support needs to be different for the customer with or without their own routers, and the field team must be able to distinguish the customers in this way. The tools at hand used by these support/troubleshooting teams for the investigation of these cases need to change as well (e.g. test and diagnostics tools should be developed or adjusted to support scenarios where effective diagnostic and possibly NOCs can only view events only available at Loop, NID or Central office equipment levels). Finally, backend infrastructure and system capabilities must be updated to support the required time and material billing for trouble resolution for customer-owned CPEs and also to initiate CPE ordering if customers want to replace their CPE with the router provided by the carrier provided during the trouble ticketing process.
Of course, the ordering process is not the only change that needs to happen in the underlying BSS domain, these areas are also affected:
Excelacom has years of experience in the cable sector and more specific experience in the evolution of CPE policy and operator strategy around this area, while working with some the largest cable providers in the key global markets. For more information on how Excelacom can help you, please email us at
David Krhut is Principal Consultant EMEA at Excelacom. He is involved in the analytical and implementation support for both client and Excelacom projects. He specializes in the general Telecommunications BSS/OSS domain (including deep knowledge of eTOM and TAM standards). His core focus is Partner Management and Billing.More about David
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