OSP Magazine, January 2007
Stop and Go Checklists for Migrating Customers to Digital
superior customer experience is the ultimate goal of every telecommunications
service provider, especially as they migrate customers to IPTV and digital home
networks. To do this, it is critical that field technicians have a step-by-step
process to speed installation, while ensuring the highest quality of service
(QoS) and reduce repeat truck rolls. While this seems straightforward, the
complex and sophisticated technology required to deliver Triple Play (voice,
video, and data) services from semiconductor components to network and premise
equipment can present new and complicated challenges for technicians.
When designed correctly, test sets for even the most advanced technologies
can be simple to use. Proper testing during installation saves time and money,
and ensures the best customer experience possible. In fact, many service
providers live and die by this equation: Time + Cost + Customer Experience =
Benefits of Proper Test Approaches
Ultimately the goal of every service provider is to speed time-to-service:
the moment at which a customer begins using their new broadband services, or the
moment the service provider begins seeing a revenue stream from each new
customer. Installing new Triple Play services while leveraging a range of wired
and wireless technologies quickly is essential to recouping millions of dollars
of course, is inextricably linked to cost. Shaving even 30 minutes off every
installation can have a positive impact on bottom line profits.
For example, if a service provider has 10,000 installations scheduled for a
single day, and each technician can complete only one, then 10,000 individual
technicians, trucks, and test sets are required to keep the installations on
Due to the complex nature of Triple Play services, quite often there is a lot
of work to be done. Customers may want outlets in different places, coax and
copper pair wiring may need to be replaced or repaired, and new wiring may need
to be installed. Even with these additional requests, proper verification and
testing with advanced test sets can simplify the process allowing two or even
three installations per technician per day, reducing time as well as personnel
Increasing the number of installations performed per day has obvious benefits
to service providers in terms of time and cost. It also goes a long way to
improving the customer experience.
Traditionally, customers are given a window of time, often a third to a half
of a day, during which they need to wait for and supervise technicians working
in their home. This is one of the primary areas of customer dissatisfaction.
Reducing the time customers have to wait improves their overall first impression
and creates a foundation for a positive experience. While this is important for
all services, it is essential for Triple Play deployment as most customers are
still considered early adopters, and service providers will rely on them to help
sell these services to their friends and neighbors.
In addition to time and cost, proper testing goes a long way toward ensuring
the highest quality performance, a key metric that directly impacts cost and
customer satisfaction. While service providers are intent on speeding
installations to reduce costs, it is imperative that when the technician leaves,
the service is delivered at peak performance levels, and that it doesn’t
degrade or fail in a matter of days. With high quality installations,
technicians rarely have to revisit a customer site – unless the customer has
ordered additional services that require on-site installation.
Conversely, when service deteriorates or fails due to improper testing during
installation, service providers incur the high cost of repeated truck rolls.
Truck rolls actually have two costs: the cost of the truck roll which industry
sources put at approximately $500 per trip, plus the frustration factor on the
part of the customer.
Ensuring proper testing of the sophisticated and complex technologies
integrated into a combined service offering can be overwhelming, not only to new
technicians as well as seasoned professionals.
Triple Play service is taking installation teams from a customer environment
with regular phone service (POTS) and perhaps a DSL line, and moving them to a
home, which combines POTS, VDSL (Very High Bit Rate DSL), Home Phoneline
Networking Alliance (HPNA), Ethernet, Wireless 802.11, and RF signals connecting
through a set-top box to a television. Many of these technologies have not been
tested in a residential environment, and each has significant requirements that
include inspecting equipment to taking measurements that ensure they work within
the parameters needed to deliver high-performance services.
Topping this off, twisted pair and coaxial cabling are being used for
extremely high-speed services, requiring an entirely new method of testing.
Often technicians find wiring in homes with no clear clue about their
destination or what is connected to the other end. In all, technicians face a
constant learning curve, and must work with nearly 10 new technologies
simultaneously in order to deliver the highest QoS.
Simplifying a Complex Process
There is a new approach providers can use called Red Light, Green Light. It
can simplify and speed testing, saving time and money while improving service
quality and the customer experience.
This kind of testing leverages service providers’ methods and procedures
(M&P) and creates a step-by-step process for testing. Technicians must
complete the steps in order with positive results or they will not be able to
proceed. Once installation is underway, the Red Light, Gr
een Light approach
directs the technician to a particular test and provides details on how to
proceed. Once the system is connected and tests are run, it generates a green
light for a positive result and leads the technician to the next phase of
testing through a precisely prescribed order.
A red light indicates that a test has failed. When this happens, the test set
presents a series of checks to ensure the test was completed properly. If the
result is still negative, the test set leads the technician through alternate
tests to help identify the problem. Ultimately, the test succeeds or the
technician seeks assistance from the home office.
In addition to successfully guiding and completing tests, the test set
captures the data which can be downloaded to the service provider’s main
database either from the truck upon the conclusion of each installation, or upon
return to the main office. This ensures that a record of the tests and results
is available and can be used as reference for future measurements if there is
ever a problem.
When migrating customers toward the Triple Play, service providers must
include fundamental steps in five areas in order to ensure the highest quality
1. VDSL service verification,
2. the gateway,
3. the set-top box,
4. the personal computer (PC), and
5. the home telephone.
VDSL Service Verification
Step 1. VDSL, which runs at 25-80 Mbps has nearly 20 parameters that
must be tested and verified to specification to ensure the circuit operates
The first task is to pick the location for the gateway. Once determined with
the homeowner, the technician must check the wiring coming from the side of the
house to the gateway location, as well as the wiring leading from the gateway to
the other points in the house.
Step 2. Each set of wires must be tested. A technician must locate
coaxial and twisted pair, check for splitters inside the home, and use toning
and tracing features to speed connection and verification. Once that is
achieved, the technician can connect the gateway to the VDSL signal coming from
the side of the house, and test to ensure the VDSL service is functioning at the
gateway, and that the additional services being delivered in the house beyond
the gateway are running properly as well.
The Set-Top Box
Step 1. A typical home may have up to four television sets.
Identifying the number of present and potential locations for these sets is the
first priority once the residential gateway is ready.
Step 2. The technician must then identify and test the coaxial cabling
leading from the location to the gateway for each television, using the test
set’s cable location tools. While seemingly straightforward, the ability to
identify these connections using a single process has proven to be a critical
metric of customer satisfaction. Without this capability, installers must check
every jack/cable in every room sequentially. Not only is this time consuming,
but it frustrates customers to have technicians walking repeatedly in and out of
every room of their home.
Step 3. Once the wiring has been located and verified as acceptable,
the technician is ready to install the set-top boxes. Each unit is connected,
and the HPNA networking is implemented and checked for functionality to be sure
the home network is running properly from the set-top boxes to the residential
gateway. This includes verifying the HPNA networking to ensure it is working
properly and is operating at high enough speeds so there will not be trouble
with the television reception down the road. Technicians must check for errors,
check the bandwidth to be sure it is high enough to support HDTV or a whole
house DVR. If the HPNA, for example, is operating at a much lower rate than what
is needed inside the home (80 Mbps vs. 112 Mbps), problems may surface, and
quality and function may deteriorate. As a result, the service provider may need
to complete an expensive truck roll.
Step 4. Once HPNA is verified, the technician can check for
interfering signals. While HPNA operates below television frequencies, it uses
the frequency shared by most amateur radio transmissions (HAM radio). Any of
these signals generated by common appliances such as walkie talkies, ham radios,
or even military, police, fire or airport radios can potentially cause
interference and disrupt service.
HPNA requires a clean set of wires that are properly set up and terminated so
they don’t receive the spurious signal which causes interference. In the
residence, if a coaxial cable runs directly from point A to point B, there is
little chance of interference if the end connectors are tightened down properly.
If however, a splitter or piece of cable that runs off has not been terminated
properly or if an end connector is not tightened down, it acts like an antenna
and picks up spurious signals. Depending on how leaky the cable is will
determine how it will impact the primary HPNA signal.
Step 5. Newer set-top boxes, called multiple stream boxes, rebroadcast
signals to multiple remote televisions from a single location, eliminating the
need for individual set-top boxes at each TV. A family member downstairs can be
watching channel 92, someone in the den can view channel 5, and another person
can use the DVR, with each signal emanating from a single box. While this system
is more efficient, it requires more sophisticated testing to ensure the cable TV
signals are suitably transmitted around the house to deliver superior picture
and sound for each remote TV. Technicians should first verify that the signal
from the set-top box is operating with specified parameters, and second, measure
the signal at each remote TV to be sure nothing is interfering such as a problem
in the cabling, splitters, or other issues that can cause interference.
Step 1. In addition to multiple TVs, most homes today include several
personal computers (PCs) spread out in various locations: the office, the
children’s rooms, the den, the kitchen, etc. Typically these PCs are
hard-wired using Ethernet connections or connected wirelessly using 802.11
Step 2. If the PCs are hardwired, technicians should check the cable
connection, ensure the pins are linked, and confirm that all the wires are
Step 3. The Ethernet connection over a twisted-pair cable (typically
Cat3 or Cat5) must be tested to ensure data transmission is good.
Step 4. For wireless networks, testing is a bit less deterministic.
The signal originates from the residential gateway, and can vary in strength
depending on the walls, neighboring wireless networks, and distance. Technicians
must determine the strength of the signal in various parts of the residence. If
necessary, the installer can reposition the home gateway or install repeaters to
make signals cleaner and strong enough to handle the network demands. As part of
the process, the technician should also check to see what channel the wireless
network is using. If the technician finds that a neighbor is using the same
channel, then he or she can tune the system and change channels to ensure a
cleaner and less-interfered-with signal.
The Home Telephone
Step 1. Despite all the new technology in Triple Play networks, POTS
remains largely unchanged, and relies much more on traditional tests during
installation. Installers must still check for DC voltage (48 volts) on each
line, make sure dial tone is present, validate the phone number, and confirm
special features such as caller ID.
Once all of these tests have been performed, the ideal approach is to save
them in a database for future retrieval. Armed with that information, the
technician will be able to upload all of their test results via a simple
Bluetooth wireless connection to a PC, and then load them on to a database
server maintaining a historical testing log for every customer.
If a customer does have a problem later with their service, the technician
can access all of the stored test results from the time of installation. That
will help to ensure all tests were performed properly at the time of
installation, but can also help to troubleshoot and isolate a problem after
testing is performed during the repair process. The technician will be able to
compare the test results from the time of installation to the same parameters
tested during the repair, and isolate down to what the problem is, and
potentially why the problem occurred. This will help to avoid the same problem
happening for future customers as well.
It is the role of test equipment vendors to partner with these communications
providers to offer equipment that simplifies the process and delivers advanced
tests and accurate results. However, this partnership can only succeed when the
goals of reducing cost, speeding installation, and improving customer
satisfaction are taken into account from the initial concept of the system. A
sound testing approach ensures a superior customer experience and delivers
tangible, bottom line improvements to Triple Play service providers.