ETI Software Solutions Blog

4K TV is Right Around the Corner, Are You Ready?


Pete Pifer, Chairman and CEO, ETI SoftwareA lot is being said today about Ultra High Definition (UHD) and 4K Television becoming the latest and greatest TV-viewing experience. As a video provider, you may be asking yourself, “What does this mean to me?”

Or as Hillary says "What difference does it make?!"

Well, here are some of my thoughts, as a 40+ year professional in the field of telecommunications and Chairman and CEO of ETI Software Solutions.

ETI and many of our customers are heavily invested in the wireline telephone business and the move to Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), which offers delivery of very high speeds of data to the home to better operate broadband services as well as IP phones and TV delivered over the Internet (IPTV).

Of course IPTV is digital TV being streamed at high data rates from the telephone central office to the home. And so IPTV needs a pipe to the home capable of delivering television. Before HD and UHD you could squeak by with the copper wiring that already has delivered telephone service. But those days are numbered. 

As more and more customers look to view content delivered through OTT services, 4K technology (which displays four times the resolution of standard 1080p HDTVs) is becoming increasingly popular. But there are many obstacles to overcome before these services can be widely available and perhaps just as important, monetized for service providers. 

 

From Wikipedia:

"On the streaming side, bandwidth is a definite issue for UHD...The internet's bandwidth is already dominated by Netflix's traffic, prompting ISPs to go after them for extra cash, and that's with most of its streams at SD and HD levels. Upping everything to 4K doesn't sound like a reasonable option just yet. And even if it were possible to stream 4K content to everyone without breaking the internet, streaming 4K content requires a 25Mbps or faster downstream internet connection, which is faster than most people have at the moment."

For example, if you had 4 TV sets in the home all watching UHD channels, you would need 4 times 25 Mbps or 100 Mbps of pipe to deliver. This pretty well locks in the need for FTTH, but at $2000 per home to install, there is a heavy “sunk cost” amount and a long return on investment. Video service providers who need to remain in business face important decisions about their future.

The forward-thinking provider needs to team up with technology companies that can ease the pain of transition. Because as soon as 4K technology becomes widely adopted, here comes true 3D television, with laser holographic displays!!! And then 3D UHD and .....don't get me started

 The future of Video will blow your mind. Having ETI’s knowledge and expertise on your side can help you navigate through the rapid change in technology. We’ve had 20+ years of doing just that and we plan on many, many more.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below or better yet, take our 5-minute quiz on emerging technologies by clicking here! We will report our results in the next blog!

 

photo credit: Samsung curved Ultra HD TV at CES 2014 via photopin
(license)

 

GIS: Not Your Father's CAD

Guest Blogger: David Holdstock, CEO, Geographic Technologies Group and Gold Partner, Esri & Glenn Laughlin, GIS expert

Imagine a world of intelligent possibilities...

Imagine knowing where your network is, where your customers are, where the high priority alarms are being raised and how much revenue is associated with every piece of equipment you own. In the past, the best you would have known is how much it would cost you to build a new network leg. But as the telecom industry continues to be pressured to manage smaller margins per user, it's not enough to only know your bill of materials. Engineering is key to your growth, moving from a cost-based business unit to a revenue-driving organization. After all, without a continually evolving network delivering the latest and greatest services to the home, it doesn't take a lot of time before your customers look somewhere else.

Key to a customer focused business practice is being in complete control of your network. Knowing who you are serving, the revenue associated with each user, the network routes that drive the most business for the organization and the ability to share this information across departments - all amount to opportunities to scale up new revenue opportunities while enabling the highest quality of experience to each and every customer.

Enterprise Fiber Management Systems - it's not your father's CAD.

Active Network Management

An enterprise system platform has two critical components. It must scale up as your business grows to support increasing demands for data and information. It must also scale out to provide decision enabling information to everyone that needs it. That means integrating with your business processes not just within engineering but through to your CFOs desk and over to the front lines in customer care. And it has to do this reliably, without duplication and easily so that your people will look to it as that one system of truth.

An active network management system provides all these benefits. It allows engineering to quickly move from planning to build out; from customer activation to billing; and from alarm management to customer care. Tightening these business processes through automated integration with OSS and BSS systems is an enabler to delivering the best quality of service imaginable to your customers all while reducing the costs to provide your services.

The role of GIS

Geographical Information Systems - they've been around for a long time.  Previously reserved for the map makers in government, GIS has now moved to the center stage. In particular, when you look at solutions from vendors like Esri, you see how they meet the demands of an enterprise system platform. The Esri GIS platform easily scales up through its intelligent use of enterprise DBMSs like Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, database systems that have driven top performing businesses for many years. And with continuing improvements to the Esri solution architecture, it's very easy to scale out to all the users in your organization - from intensive desktop users, web based decision support portals, to your field techs and even to your customers for self-servicing applications.

Enterprise Fiber Management Systems

Considering the role of GIS in the enterprise, it's important that you consider adopting a fiber management system that leverages the benefits of GIS while scaling up and out throughout your organization. A fiber management system that was designed with these properties in mind. One that not only provides the tools to plan, design and build out a new FTTx network easily but enables that active view of the network to support all the other business processes key to your growth.

All the benefits of an enterprise fiber management system - this is the mission behind the Overture FMS platform. Built on the industry leading GIS platform from Esri and designed from day 1 to be that one system of truth that actively participates in all your business processes. Reduce your operational costs; improve the customer experience; and drive new business growth opportunities.

It's not your father's CAD.

 Dashboard and NAPs

Topics: GIS, Esri, fiber management, CAD

Just Make it Work: When Your Customers Break the Internet

ACS illustration

We all know the frustration that comes when you cannot get access to the information you need, whether its online banking, the lateset YouTube sensation or weather update. In fact for many years, Internet Service Providers took the view that if they could ‘ping’ the customer’s gateway, then the Internet Service was fine. Any remaining issues belonged to the customer.

The problem with this approach is that the customer does not buy ‘the Internet’ - instead they are looking to use that particular service; Facebook, Google, etc; and if they cannot access these things, then ‘the Internet’ is broken - and it is the service provider's fault.

Forward thinking providers soon concluded that they needed to support their customers to access the things that matter to them. Otherwise customers would deduce that their service was no good and switch providers. Indeed most customers cannot understand why the Internet doesn’t just work.

The solution? Remote device management. It's a major tool for combating churn because it improves the customer experience, especially in that critical first 28 days. Get it right at the beginning and customers tend to hang around.  Later in their journey, when they add that new gizmo, it too has to just work, and again device management provides the means to automate, diagnose and fix the customer’s home networking challenges.

Making things ‘just work’ is a complex relationship between the technology and the rest of the service providers’ infrastructure. With correctly designed workflows it should be entirely possible for a customer to purchase a new service online, and have that service delivered and deployed in a fully automated fashion. The fewer human interventions that are needed, the fewer opportunities for mistakes. Remote Device Management enables the gap between services and systems to be bridged, and thus reducing the Call Centre contact and the truck roll.

There has been much debate about whether the home gateway should be a simple device that just handles connectivity, or whether a more complex device with greater functionality is the way to go. Either way, the service provider has to invest in the CPE that is deployed, and remote device management enables service providers to maximise this investment through the capability to upgrade firmware to enhance functionality, or to fix faults and thus avoid the need to send a replacement.

With the customer experience at the heart of every device management task, it is easy to see how providers can enhance service levels, improve customer retention levels, reduce the time customers have to spend on the phone to the service desk, and get the most out of their investment in customer premises equipment.

For these reasons, ETI Software has added Overture ACS to its product set. It features the full TR-069 functional device management protocol for home gateways, set top boxes, VoIP telephones, power line adapters and more. It is fully integrated into and supplements the ETI OSS provisioning suite, which in turn handles 70+ technology interfaces and 20+ billing integrations out of the box.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. With daily new developments in the range of devices being integrated into the Connected Home and other Internet of Things implementations, ACS TR-069 device management is jumping to the forefront of broadband technologies.

In fact, ETI’s software is being used to manage things as diverse as buses, fuel tank levels and intelligent traffic cones, in addition to the core business of home gateways, set top boxes, VoIP telephones, power line adapters and many others.

Is ACS TR-069 technology on your radar? Leave a comment.

 

Topics: remote device management, ACS TR-069

President Obama Jumps On Board the Local Broadband Bandwagon

obamaFor those of us in the telecom software business (like myself) -- fortunate enough to spend our careers evangelizing the economic benefits of high-speed broadband and fiber network services, this week easily felt like a birthday week, didn’t it?  You may laugh at that but it is totally true.  

Of course, when I read about President Obama’s trip to Cedar Falls, IA to show his support for rural broadband projects and initiatives I felt pride in my company’s mission to get folks connected to high-speed broadband.  But to see that, during Obama’s visit, that the Cedar Falls team gave the President a demonstration of how to splice fiber optic cable…man, that made my inner fiber-geek smile a mile wide!! 

We’re doing it, folks!  Months ago, I blogged about the FCC’s chairman Wheeler [see that post here] and the strides he was making to get the broadband initiative more of a priority in the media.  But as of this week, our principal message of how important it is to get communities connected to a broadband fiber super-highway is being delivered to the nation, by our commander-in-chief!  Not too shabby, huh? 

Some very simple things can be accomplished for communities that participate in high-speed, broadband initiatives… 

  • Information is numero uno!  It’s empowering, and is still KING!  We need fast, affordable and convenient ways to access all Internet technologies.

  • Breaking down geographic boundaries.  Yes, location is critical in terms of opportunity…but building virtual communities through high-speed broadband is giving small business, government projects and education a way to connect with the world through a screen, which garners all kinds of advanced opportunities for those with that access.

  • Spark economic growth. This is not about just downloading movies, playing games and surfing the internet.  With the help of high-speed broadband, local jobs are created to support it. Better technology means better tools to track efficiencies, analyze expenditures and automate processes across your cities that save monies…so you can put those net profits and monies to better use. 

 Want to watch the video of the President's speech? Click here! Or if you prefer, you can read the President's announcement - click here!

 

Topics: FTTH, community broadband, Cedar Falls Utilities

Is Customer Service Dead?

RIP Customer ServiceIf you are in the telecom business, you most likely have heard the recording of the Comcast CSR berating a customer for choosing to cancel his service.  Instead of taking the information necessary to cancel, the CSR tries to interrogate the customer about why he is cancelling – which gets a reply of “Because of customer service like this.” (Listen to the call here.)

Wow. Has customer service turned into a last-effort sales pitch? An upsell opportunity? Is Customer Service Dead?

Generally speaking, the large telcos have a problem with customer service. The American Customer Satisfaction Index, which is put out quarterly by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and is considered the most comprehensive customer satisfaction survey in the United States, shows that once again Comcast and Time Warner Cable have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any ISPs in the United States. 

These results may have a few mitigating factors. To quote the Huffington Post: “Many of the most-hated companies have millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of workers. With this kind of reach, it’s important to keep employees happy in order to maintain decent customer service. Often, poor job satisfaction leads to poor service and low customer satisfaction.“

In addition to that reality, the effect of social media cannot be overestimated. Unhappy customers can easily influence public opinion and have resorted to very clever ways to do so. Remember the musician who saw airline workers mishandle his expensive guitar? He wrote a song that went viral (to the tune of 14 million views!) entitled “United Breaks Guitars.” (Click here to view the video). United had no choice but to respond and today uses the video and the experience when it trains its service representatives.

But does this low standard really apply across the board? Are large operators and national companies giving the rest of us a bad name?

Well, as a consumer myself, I would like to point out some pet peeves that may help you determine the answer at your organization. These are little things – but they are a slippery slope that turns your customers from raving fans into arch enemies.

Entering your information multiple times. I understand the rationale of an automated answering service, where you can get a quicker response by entering your account number, etc. before speaking to a representative. What ticks me off is that once you reach a human being, they re-confirm every bit of information you just entered. What’s worse, if they have to transfer you to another department, you have to again relay the same information. Talk about dual entry – where’s the love here?

Muzak and only muzak. It drives me crazy when on-hold lines do not tell you what number you are in line or how long your wait time should be. Perhaps this is unrealistic for smaller companies to estimate or deploy, but it certainly helps my patience level by knowing what to expect.

Unknowledgeable reps. I recently called a very large web hosting company to help diagnose an FTP issue. It took 3 different calls across 2 days for me to reach someone who could actually fix the problem. The other two calls resulted in email instructions being sent to me (that didn’t work) and being told that it was a software issue (incorrect.)

Now, let me also throw out some customer service best practices that I’ve seen:

Take the Ritz Carlton approach. Known for its exceptional customer service, the attitude at this world-class hotel is that no matter what your job description, if approached by a customer with an issue, that issue becomes your own. As a Ritz Carlton employee, you are required to stop what you are doing and immediately help the customer. Enough said.

Use Technology. I recently took advantage of a “Live Chat” on a consumer website that was informative, efficient and professional. That’s a great example of how technology can be harnessed to improve the customer experience.  The telco industry has seen the development of software that can integrate business and customer service systems to provide quick resolution to issues that affect subscribers. ETI Software has products designed specifically to improve service assurance through improved response time, proactive monitoring and work order management. Catching problems before your customer does is a good thing!

Empower Your Team. Knowledge is power, so they say, and giving your CSRs the right information allows them to resolve customer-facing issues more effectively. Giving them the power and the know-how results in a happier employee .. and definitely a more satisfied customer. Telecom tools such as TR-069 ACS software and GIS overlays can empower CSRs to easily handle the most common forms of calls without the help of a specialist.

Gone are the days where if you have a complaint about your service, you write a letter and put it in the mail and hope for a response. (Although back in the day, my father did that and got a brand new TV out of it!) Take advantage of today’s technology and make sure your customer service department never ends up on any “Worst of” list.

Got your own horror or success stories to share? Leave a comment.

 

photo credit: Tammra McCauley  via photopin

Topics: customer service, good customer service, telecom customer churn, customer satisfaction

Sitting Ringside...the Gigabit battle for Muni rights!

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It's been almost 6 months since we blogged about about the FCC and Chairman Wheeler's statements regarding Open Internet Rules, (click here to see our previous post), as well as some already successful Muni Broadband projects. I've spent a ton of time this spring/summer at telecom, broadband and fiber focused trade shows, discussing the implications of Wheeler's statements and watching how municipalities are responding. This is a pivotal time for the non-metro communities in the United States and I feel like I am ringside observing the fight between muni vs. corporate rights to launch meaningful Gigabit broadband services.  

Chairman Wheeler's comments to “preserve a free and open Internet” and “enhance competition” in the market were the literal starting gun last February for Munis to begin sprinting to prove their case to own their own broadband-fiber network. Municipal broadband is still in its infancy, but growing despite pressure and competition from telecom giants. Although the burden is still on each government municipality to prove their financial grit, more sound muni business plans are getting legs every month. 

Chattanooga EPB and Wilson-Greenlight Petition

On Monday, the FCC responded to petitions from Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC by opening up formal proceedings on the matter, and requesting people weigh in on the issue. Reporters from the Washington Post to GovTech covered the story.

Read the article and the several responses here...

http://muninetworks.org/content/community-network-media-roundup-week-august-1

What We Want

Stealing a thought from Chair Tom Wheeler ... To allow the Internet to remain a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression...for everyone, from any geography.

photo credit: Profound Whatever via photopin

Topics: Broadband, community broadband, Gigabit

Home from TM Forum LIVE, and Ready for FTTH Americas 2014!

Nice, France was nice for TM Forum LIVE...TM Forum

I hit the road bigtime at TM Forum in sunny Nice, France last week. TM Forum LIVE made it clear that data is still king and the topics of virtualization, visualization and orchestration ruled the expo floor.  Software solution concepts that control CapEx, OpEx and maximize customer satisfaction, thus reducing churn, were never more prevalent.  

Most interesting to me were the discussions around visualizing big data into intelligent web dashboards and footprint map views for the purpose of automating critical tasks.  Software that visually represents data for subscriber service assurance, revenue statistics and network performance in a form other than spreadsheets and flat reports are key to response time and customer problem solving.  Service providers that "arm" themselves with these intelligent, highly visual representations of all footprint operations and sales will more likely predict potential threats and preempt churn.

Now on to FTTH Conference & Expo in FT. Lauderdale...FTTH Conference and Expo

Looking forward to a large dose of telecom "fiber" in my daily diet over June 23-24!  And looking forward to hearing about all the new fiber projects, innovative software tools and follow ups from last year's FTTH Council conference. If you are in town for the conference, please stop by the ETI Software booth (#809) at the FTTH Expo Floor at the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Convention Center.  

 And...at 10am June 24 Will Aycock (GM, Greenlight Community Broadband) and I will be leading an Education Session: "Leverage Your OSS Data to Better Monitor and Monetize your Network".  Please join us in discussing the management of operational expenses.

 How are you leveraging your big data to build smarter, more intelligent processes with OSS and GIS?

Topics: trade shows, TM Forum, FTTH Council, Gigabit

The MTV Generation Is Going Gigabit Crazy!

small 483042448In a previous blog I spoke of the importance of getting people connected to higher bandwidth networks to create both personal and economic opportunities for communities across the country.  It’s thrilling to scan the internet telecom news and broadband blogs to read of literally hundreds of fiber network projects in the US that are at different stages of being approved and implemented. 

The “I Want My MTV” generation is leading the charge and changing our slogan to “I Want My Gigabit!”  Digital information drives our daily lives in both the personal and business side and everyone needs to be connected.

The Value of Greenfield Projects

Greenfield fiber projects for broadband or telecom services can be defined as:

 “A project to build a fiber network in an area where none previously existed, and to conceivably offer services that had not previously been offered.” 

Many of these new fiber network projects are happening away from the larger cities and metro areas where not much telecom infrastructure has been deployed.  Importantly, these greenfield fiber deployments promise fiscal opportunity in areas that were once viewed as “remote” and “out of the way” in comparison to larger populated areas.  And for that reason, these projects offer positive economic diversity to the US telecom landscape overall. 

The greenfield projects are also beneficial because they are not subject to the constraints of pre-existing networks, and this allows for technology paradigms to evolve and improve into more efficient communications systems.

 The Greenfield Life Cycle

 I recently spoke on a panel at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin about ETI’s software’s modular phase-based model, and it seemed to resonate with those in the midst of a greenfield deployment. To elaborate a bit: a project of this magnitude can be broken down into 3 phases of deployment and each stage has different requirements. And this means solutions need to be able to create the new paradigm of building a communications network for their community. 

Phase 1: Network Design and Management Software (Fiber Management Software)

Your greenfield fiber project has been approved and you’re ready to start.  You’ll need software that allows you to hand over a plan to your network construction team:

  • Design Your Network
  • Inventory Your Network
  • Manage Network Addresses
  • Estimate Network Costs

Phase 2: Activate and Invoice (OSS/BSS Solution)

Once your network is built and ready for use you need to add subscribers to it and start to pay back what you’ve spent in network costs and construction.  You’ll need software that allows you to:

  • Manage Subscribers
  • Provision Subscriber Services
  • Manage a Work Force, Service Calls and Trouble Tickets
  • Track Customer Premise Equipment (CPE)
  • Create an invoice or monthly bill

Phase 3: Monitoring and Management Software (GIS Solution)

Now that you are building your subscriber base you need an efficient solution in place to track all data within your footprint.  This will allow you automate tasks and build processes to streamline all departmental endeavors and achieve your goals by using your data intelligently.

Let’s face facts…we have outgrown spreadsheets as a way to effectively analyze our telecom footprint.  GIS software allows us a bird’s eye view of all operations in a service area.  You’ll need GIS software to:

  • Track daily work and service orders
  • Track service vehicles
  • Track network alarms or potential service issues
  • Track subscriber sales and consumption patterns
  • Build target marketing campaigns by location
As a final thought and “cherry on top” wish to this 3-Phase solution…I would ask for all these systems to be integrated to one data warehouse.   The simple reason is to eliminate annoying and time-consuming tasks such as dual entry, duplication of records and to enforce data accuracy and integrity practices within telecom service providers.  The good news? It’s not just a wish – ETI has actually implemented systems that can do all of this! It’s a rewarding time to be in telecom, and as a founding member of the “I Want My MTV” generation, I’m excited to be a founding member today of the Gigibit Generation.
 

photo credit: nailbender via photopin  cc

Topics: greenfield, greenfield fiber, MTV, Gigabit, gigabit network

Let's Get Connected, Folks! 3 Great Stories

contact etiLots of exciting things are going on in the US Telecom/Muni market regarding getting more people connected!  At ETI Software we are huge fans of cutting edge telecom technology and creating efficient solutions for broadband junkies.  Any voice, video and data service that connects people, businesses and government institutions to grow personal and professional relationships is “the name of the game” in our world.  With the vast number of local communities/municipalities being underserved with high-speed connectivity currently, we remain obligated to help folks with simple and efficient solutions to manage, monitor and monetize these network projects. 

Keep in mind…there are dozens to hundreds of fiber-based community networks in existence in America today, and these endeavors that connected residential and commercial subscribers, in many cases, were motivated by local community and government supported projects.  This means that a variety of models have been designed, introduced and deployed to the US market already. 

This is great news for those areas wanting a template approach or pre-designed steps to fulfilling their own local success with high-speed telecom service deployments and offerings.  As an example of the opportunities that are emerging for local communities to be “hooked up”, I’ll focus on 3 short articles highlighting different efforts from the industry to forge ahead and “get connected”. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Statement 
Let’s rewind to last month’s statement by Chairmen Tom Wheeler of the FCC.  It’s encouraging to read their intent to “preserve a free and open Internet” and “enhance competition” in the market.  This will allow the Internet to remain “a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression.”

Read Chairman Tom Wheeler’s statement here:

Success Story - Wilson, NC – Community Broadband

Some local communities have already stepped up and committed their efforts to supply more resources in an attempt to enhance city assets and grow local revenues.  The city of Wilson, NC – Greenlight Community Broadband has since had success with their broadband project that started in 2006.

Read Community Broadband story here.

Broadband Facilitation Strategies - Broadband Communities Magazine Online 

A well-written and detailed article on specific approaches of local government to pioneer broadband efforts and projects and enabling their expansion.

Read the Broadband Communities Magazine Online story here.

Got a success story to share? Let us know and we'll stay connected!

Topics: FCC statement, muni broadband, community broadband, municipality fiber network

Where is My Network? The 3 Must-Haves Of Every Fiber Management Tool

Overture FMSYou ever stop to think of all the data that exists within a service provider’s (SP’s) entire operation and business system environment?  The amount of info about the geographic footprint, services, subscribers, employees, work force, overhead, process management, headend equipment, CPE, etc. (I could go on but you get the point!) is an amazing, even staggering data set.  If that data is harnessed effectively, SPs have access to an arsenal of information that can help solve daily operational challenges and result in more efficient processes – which we know leads to better customer satisfaction and higher retention rates.

By far the two most valuable data sets to every SP are (1) the folks paying you for your services…the subscribers (2) and the physical network that enables these services.  And of course, you OSP folks out there are thinking, “We don’t have subscribers without the network!” 

I could focus this blog on the OSP folks that design and manage their service provider (SP) network, but this topic affects all aspects of your business because of its importance to keeping a healthy subscriber-base. 

Design and Track Tools

It's imperative that you are able to both view and design your network from the same software tool.  This is completely achievable through the most recent GIS platforms on the market.  This gives you the ability to track deployed plant inventory and trace routes between network points for troubleshooting.

Cost Estimation and Capacity Planning Tools

The software tool that allows you to design and track your network also needs to offer the ability to estimate the cost of future build-outs. A large part of your business growth will be tied to moving into new geographic areas that will require more network infrastructure and construction costs.  Additionally, you will need to track these per project and per item. Your end goal is to map the subscriber opportunities that will be created so that you can provide ROI and monetization estimates with your itemized network costs.

Seamless Integration for Address Point Management

Your fiber management system is not just a stand-alone software solution - it should flow to the rest of your business and operational systems.  With the GIS solutions available today, your business can plot your address points, homes passed and all subscribers in your service provider footprint.  These points have to be considered not only in your network design, but also through your built-out analysis.  Make it part of your process to start your address point management in the OSP software design tool and have it flow through and pre-populate your B/OSS, CRM or your chosen subscriber management system.  This will eliminate redundant data and swivel-chair processes when mining and deploying new subscribers and services.

Do you know where you network is…and how to manage it?

 

 

 

Topics: FMS, fiber management systems, fiber management software, fiber management tools