Reliability is the next step on the path to adaptable smart grids

Reliability is the new standard for customer experiences, with speed being the metrics users care about most. According to 2023 Consumer Research, reliable broadband is the second most important consideration for people considering buying a home, and a study by CyLab at Carnegie Mellon University found that users want to know how their broadband will perform in less-than-ideal conditions as well as in scenarios Typical.

The growing demand for seamless connectivity is directly linked to the proliferation of IoT devices and online activity. As people spend more of their time online for work, social interaction, and entertainment, broadband reliability is critical to delivering high-quality experiences in each of these areas.

As part of CableLabs’ technology vision, we are strengthening collaboration with CableLabs member operators and the vendor community across the industry as we work toward a new era of seamless network reliability. This era will be defined by ubiquitous context-aware connectivity and adaptive smart grids.

What do we mean by broadband reliability?

The term “reliability” means different things in different contexts. In broadband, it includes latency, connectivity, availability, and resilience. Each new release of DOCSIS® technology has helped us move closer to these goals.

With the introduction of DOCSIS 4.0, we are moving closer to true interoperability with technologies capable of delivering higher speeds, higher throughput, lower latency, and greater overall network coherence. All of this ensures a more reliable broadband experience!

At CableLabs, we embrace all of these concepts and strive to revolutionize network reliability and service reliability:

Network Reliability – The impact of failure – both financially and in terms of user experience – increases dramatically as user activity and network capacity increases. Network reliability aims to reduce the likelihood of failure by creating a resilient, available, repairable, and maintainable network. A reliable network also includes strong redundancy to ensure performance and continuity. Service Reliability – From a user perspective, reliability refers to the likelihood of not experiencing a service outage. In the pursuit of seamless connectivity, the goal is to create end-to-end user experiences where users can move between networks without experiencing an outage.

Defining a roadmap to broadband reliability

Reliability in the broadband industry depends on developing a deep understanding of the physical layer of the network while maintaining a digital mindset. At CableLabs, our mission is to evolve the way we connect, and we are constantly developing innovative technology applications that aim to achieve reliability goals and improve performance.

These efforts include helping the industry embrace and connect the concepts of broadband reliability and customer experience, working together to establish interoperability, and defining what advanced broadband technology means for users at the ground level.

Here are some of the projects we’re most excited about:

Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM)

PNM has changed the way operators use DOCSIS technology. Its advanced analytics detect and fix network anomalies that could ultimately impact service if left unaddressed. PNM can help make hybrid fiber coaxial and fiber to the home networks equally reliable, as PNM ensures reliable connectivity by proactively addressing issues before they lead to service impacts.

PNM innovations will ultimately change the way network operators work with DOCSIS technologies. CableLabs currently has several active PNM workstreams that seek to manage the resiliency capacity of the DOCSIS technology network so that users are never affected by degradation.

With the wealth of network query and testing capabilities, we continue to learn how to take full advantage of the information available to us. Developing the science behind DOCSIS network operation is an important ongoing effort. And transferring that knowledge to network operations is critical.

An example of a related technology we are developing is generative AI tools for network operations. As we learn more about the network and how to maintain it effectively, we need to leverage that knowledge. Through our R&D efforts, we have built solutions that turn knowledge into operations.

Quality by Design (QbD)

One innovation that allows us to leverage this information is QbD. QbD directly addresses network reliability issues by providing network operators with a direct view of the user experience.

The QbD concept, part of CableLabs’ Network as a Service (NaaS) technology, leverages APIs as network monitoring tools. By enabling applications to share real-time metrics that can be linked to network performance, QbD allows operators to identify potential problems in the network and provide automated solutions.

Network and service reliability

This working group focuses on aligning service and network reliability and enabling operators to orchestrate tasks, standardize processes, and ensure reliability. The 2022 paper outlines a roadmap to help operators begin their journey toward addressing network and service reliability.

This working group has expanded the roadmap into a more comprehensive set of practices that operators can implement and then share their knowledge to develop effective network and service reliability management. Through a forthcoming SCTE publication, the working group will identify practices that help operators ensure that broadband networks and services are reliable and continue to improve. As networks transform into new technologies and services and expand their use of communications, this working group will continue to ensure reliable networks and services are created within them.

Optical Operations and Maintenance

The Optics Operations and Maintenance Working Group is focused on aligning KPIs and streamlining processes to simplify maintenance of optical networks. Participation has been strong, and the group has already agreed on a basic architecture. The next step is to define core telemetry and build solutions that support specific use cases.

By simplifying, we can improve interoperability, get new technologies to market faster, and simplify networks overall. The overarching goals include reducing complexity, ensuring consistency, and improving broadband reliability.

Tools and preparation

This effort is focused on helping operators plan for DOCSIS 4.0 deployment, avoiding problems that might otherwise occur and improving the reliability of DOCSIS 4.0 technologies. In collaboration with industry partners, CableLabs has released specifications for cable operator setups for DOCSIS 4.0 technology. Working Group 5 of the SCTE Network Operations Subcommittee is almost ready to expand this work into a best practices document that guides operators in preparing to deploy DOCSIS 4.0 technology.

Where are we going?

In the next era of broadband, reliability will improve to the point that networks fade into the background of the user experience.

To achieve this, CableLabs’ technology vision defines a framework centered around three key themes: seamless connectivity; network platform evolution; and pervasive intelligence and security and privacy. Within these themes, CableLabs works with global experts to deliver flexible and reliable network solutions that can enable new services and improve user experiences.

How to participate

CableLabs members have many opportunities to collaborate on growing the future of broadband technology. Consider attending the next Interop·Labs event, which will include PNM testing of DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems. Or join a working group to help get things moving toward solutions to challenges facing the industry.

We also invite you to learn more about our technology vision themes and focus areas. As we work toward the goal of network reliability and seamless connectivity, industry partnerships and collaborations will open the door to the next phase of broadband innovation.

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