April 13, 2016

Dear Cable Operators: Virtualizing the CPE Really Does Make Sense

Deploying virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) provides a competitive advantage today but it may soon become a necessity for competitive cable operators.

Most of the business challenges facing cable operators today revolve around the way they deploy services. This is largely because traditional customer premises equipment (CPE) cannot efficiently or cost-effectively cope with the rapid growth in customer demands for new features and more bandwidth. As a result, network operators encounter bottlenecks that prevent them from truly differentiating their offerings.

When cable operators introduce a new service today, they are usually required to deploy new devices at the customer premises. Without these new devices, it used to be nearly impossible to launch new services, deploy new technologies or roll out of new features and functionality. 

But what if CPE didn’t need hardware upgrades to offer new services, features or increased bandwidth? That would introduce big cost savings, enable fewer trucks rolls and simplify the management of deployed devices. A virtualized CPE (vCPE) enables all of that; it promises greater control, visibility and flexibility while simultaneously reducing the time it takes to being new services to the market.

Cutting Through Yet Another Acronym

The concept of vCPE is simple. In the vCPE architecture model, software is decoupled from underlying hardware, leaving less intelligent equipment sitting at the customer premises and pushing network functions to the cloud. So instead of using specialized, expensive devices to support sophisticated services, operators can use less costly devices to connect their access network with customers. This separation of hardware and software enables MSOs to develop advanced features and deploy them anywhere in the network, depending on their specific service, resource or bandwidth requirements.

The use of vCPE gives cable MSOs the opportunity to manage things like security and firmware updates from a central location, enabling greater scale and allowing operators to reduce network complexity. New levels of automation, customer self-service and performance monitoring go hand-in-hand with vCPE as well. Because virtualization reduces the need for expensive installations, which results in fewer truck rolls, cable MSOs can streamline the delivery of new services to subscribers without having to replace hardware. This means that operators can roll out highly personalized, converged service offerings faster.

Bringing vCPE to Life

A fundamental piece to realizing vCPE is upgrading existing BSS/OSS. Cable MSOs’ BSS/OSS should provide end-to-end network and service orchestration so it can support policy-based, real-time provisioning and service assurance for both virtualized and legacy networks.

With the help of trusted partners, cable operators are exploring the potential of vCPE by shifting residential and business equipment functions to the cloud.

Just look at how operators are shifting in residential markets. Major North American and European cable service providers like Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications are now rolling out cloud-based video services like cloud DVRs and uniform programming guides to subscribers, leveraging virtualized technologies to deliver these services to simpler, IP-enabled set-top boxes and video gateways.

Similarly on the enterprise side, Comcast, Charter, Cox Communications and other cable operators are virtualizing routers, security firewalls and other key equipment and functions in offices and factories. By moving critical capabilities to the cloud, operators can leverage commercial off-the-shelf gear to cut costs.

Moves like these are sure to intensify over the next few years as MSOs become more comfortable with the concept of virtualization. Taking initial steps toward vCPE today will be critical for operators to succeed in the long run, as it will only be a matter of time before virtualization becomes less of an advantage and more of a requirement. A trusted and strategic partner like Netcracker can help you make a timeline and bring vCPE to life.



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