Written by Beth Hildreth on April 4, 2017
Categories: Blog Posts, Networks

Patience seems to be harder and harder to find these days, which has made tolerance for cable outages lower than ever. To keep customers happy, reliability and strong customer service have become more of a necessity than a commodity. Monitoring downstream has become the predominant way to proactively ensure cable service and quality. We took a few minutes to break down the top ways people are monitoring downstream:

1. The Customer Response Method

The first method is actually the “no method.” This involves sitting back and waiting for customers to report outages. While this method may come with the lowest initial investment, it’s also the riskiest since you don’t get any feedback until network issues have already occurred and customers have been impacted.

Pros: Low initial investment and workload.

Cons: This method will generate the unhappiest customers because outages will go unreported, and the response time will be poor. To effectively deploy this method there will need to be countless employees available 24/7 to manage issues.

2. The Customer Hardware Monitoring Method

Customer hardware monitoring involves direct monitoring of a cable modem or a set-top box in the customer’s house. It works by grouping measuring statistics from the modem and set-top boxes on the channels in use. This is very common on DOCSIS modems, where measuring downstream performance was built into the protocol, but is far harder and less standardized with set-top boxes.

While this method can give you slightly better network visibility than the Customer Response method, you, unfortunately, can only monitor the channels currently being watched or used by the consumer. If a channel goes out in this area, but that household doesn’t frequent this channel, you’ll be in the dark until another user reports the outage.

Pros: Low initial investment since it relies on monitoring existing CPE gear.

Cons: Limited information. You can only monitor the channels currently being watched by the consumer. This also requires OSS work to combine information from modem DOCSIS downstreams and set top box QAM measurements.”

3. The Probe Installation Method

This method involves installing probes that become representatives for an area. While installing probes has proven to be an effective way to monitor downstream, it is also incredibly expensive, making it difficult to install, scale, and maintain. Eventually, enough corners get cut and compromises get made that ruin this method’s effectiveness.

Pros: This is a highly detailed way to monitor downstream and is effective. Many solutions offerings score the video and audio quality instead of just looking at the signal metrics.

Cons: Probes are incredibly expensive and installing probes creates an added cost. This makes scaling this method cost-prohibitive in the long run.

4. The Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM) Method

Proactive Network Maintenance leverages the downstream capture capabilities built into all newer DOCSIS modems, including many embedded modems in STBs and other gear. This provides most of the advantages of a probe method without having to deploy extra equipment.

Pros: Doesn’t require proprietary gear and leverages the same equipment needed to turn up customers. The system is designed to automatically detect problems in the downstream (without needing to deploy probes) and to then categorize any problems. This information is then pinpointed on a map to provide greater insight into where specific kinds of problems are occurring. In addition, PNM also maps all spectrum capture capable devices.

Cons: Doesn’t provide detailed breakdowns on video and audio quality since the signal capture doesn’t actually decode the QAM.