Improving cable customer satisfaction starts with the network
Cable MSOs can improve customer experience and satisfaction by taking a four-pillar approach to evolving their operations support systems (OSS). This approach focuses on the way MSOs see their networks, the services that run on these networks, the health of the services and the way that customers consume them. This four-part blog series explores how Cable MSOs can measurably improve their ability to deliver the highest possible quality of service to subscribers.
Part 1: Start with a service-centric view of the network to improve cable customer satisfaction
Subscribers today connect to a highly complex multi-service network that is quickly evolving to an automated, programmable, cloud-based environment. It is more important than ever for cable MSOs to have an accurate, current and active state view, or topology, of their fixed and wireless networks. Cable MSOs need to know the health of residential, mobile and complex business services as they are delivered to each subscriber.
Historically, cable operators have monitored and measured service quality and health from the bottom up, starting with attempting to keep track of all elements of all networks all the time. This approach is extremely challenging and costly due to the time and effort required to manage an MSO’s disaggregated OSS where multiple, uncorrelated network inventories have a limited awareness of service performance and fault status.
Cable operators have made investments to enable their OSS to handle a plethora of different types of network functions (physical, virtual, cloud native), network domains (core, transport, fixed access, RAN), and cloud flavors (public, private, hybrid), and to provide a holistic view of the entire infrastructure. This further exacerbates the challenge of getting a clear, current and accurate view of the network.
Why it’s so hard to get an accurate active view of the networks
Many of the network elements involved in the delivery of a particular service may not be managed by an element or inventory management system or be easily discoverable through automation. It may take some level of manual intervention to bring them into an active state.
To make matters more challenging, many cable MSOs have begun to virtualize their networks. They have introduced a dynamic network topology using network function virtualization (NFV) and containerized network functions (CNFs). This means the physical hardware’s relationship to the virtual network that runs across it has become abstract and changes every few seconds. The fact that networks can now automatically self-manage and self-optimize makes it even tougher to understand what the network looks like at any given moment.
The increasing complexity of MSO networks – virtualized and distributed – challenges assurance systems
Enter the service-centric network topology
Network topologies are evolving to become service-centric, which enables cable operators to view their networks in different ways or in different slices depending on the types of services they are selling and delivering. A service-centric, or top-down, approach allows an operator to abstract an accurate view of the live network that any particular service is traversing at any point in time.
Cable MSOs can achieve a service-centric network topology through an overlay abstraction layer. This eliminates the need to rip and replace the complex and expensive element and network management systems in their existing OSS environments.
These new service-centric abstraction layers enable cable operators to view their networks from the perspective of each service. Operators can now get a simple accurate, end-to-end picture of the specific elements involved in delivering the service. The view omits all unnecessary or uninvolved network elements or IT components.
Borrowing what works in webscale IT systems
To support a service-centric experience, operators need an easier way to see how network performance impacts service quality. They can achieve this by replacing their legacy, semi-static and highly detailed network underlay view with a disaggregated service overlay view. This is a proven architecture borrowed from the world of IT and webscale companies such as Amazon AWS and Google, which are using microservices platforms that enable a service-centric view and more agile management capability.
While this sounds like a complex and onerous task, it is fairly simple to achieve by deploying an overlay aggregation component. This component will help operators create new service-specific maps of existing static and virtualized networks with minimal disruption to existing OSS element management and network management systems.
Building on network topology mapping
Moving the customer experience dial to the top isn’t easy. But cable operators can do it without replacing their complex ecosystem of OSS/BSS platforms.
Once a cable operator has achieved some level of service-centric topology, it will be in a much better position to leverage the right data from the right elements at the right time, helping to reduce support costs and streamlining operations.
In our next post, we’ll discuss accurate service definition models and how important it is for operators to stitch or overlay them to the new network topology.