Vendors Forge Provisioning Partnerships

Preparing for cable's inevitable era of open access and striving to help operators eliminate costly truck rolls, equipment vendors Motorola Broadband Communications Sector and River- Delta Networks Inc. crafted integration partnerships last week with two separate provisioning-software firms.

In the first, Motorola Broadband will marry Interactive Enterprise Ltd.'s cross-platform broadband-integration software with its line of cable-modem-termination systems and Internet-protocol equipment.

Motorola Broadband also agreed to make an undisclosed equity investment in Interactive Enterprise.

RiverDelta, meanwhile, said it cut a deal with Emperative Inc. to integrate Emperative's "ProvEn" software with its Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1-based "Broadband Services Router-64000" CMTS and pizza-box-sized "BSR-1000" edge router.

In addition to helping cable operators to provision cable modems for new high-speed subscribers, Emperative's and IE's software are designed to enable customers to select from multiple Internet-service providers and from several data-speed tiers-important steps in the open access process.

Those two software players have plenty of competition and company. Other provisioning vendors include BroadJump Inc., AP Engines Inc., CommTech Corp. Inc., Core Networks Inc., New Era of Networks Inc. and Redback Networks Inc.

Imperative has integration agreements with Cisco Systems Inc. and Broadband Access Systems Inc.

While several cable operators have already employed provisioning tactics for high-speed services, the subscriber-management piece of the puzzle is currently being explored on a more limited basis.

For example, AT & T Broadband plans to pioneer an open-access trial this November in Boulder, Colo., and Time Warner Cable recently inked a deal to open up cable lines and offer high-speed services from Juno Online Services Inc. nationwide. Time Warner's initial technical trial is slated for customers in Columbus, Ohio.

Provisioning-software relationships such as RiverDelta's deal with Emperative "takes those multiple services and enables the operator to easily allow customers to access a Web-based interface to select those services initially and change them later," RiverDelta vice president of marketing Jeffrey Walker said.

"Customers might want the service for a year and a day, a week, or even an hour," RiverDelta chief technical officer Gerry White added. "We're trying to address bringing down the operational costs and making the service easy to access."

RiverDelta-which has similar deals with BroadJump and AP Engines-has already completed its integration work with Emperative's ProvEn software and demonstrated those combinations "to a few customers," Walker said.

With Emperative's software in the mix, RiverDelta's CMTS can also link up with cable operators' legacy billing systems.

"Not only do cable operators want to offer multiple services and data-speed tiers, but they also want to allow customers to self-select these services and make sure they're billed properly in the systems," Walker said.

A portion of that is done through "auto-discovery," a process that automatically informs the cable operator when a new modem is online.

"Basically, the modem goes through the DOCSIS process of getting connected to the network without the need of preconfiguring the modem with a MAC [media-access controller] address," Walker explained.

Motorola Broadband-which has already fused Interactive Enterprise's "Conexon" solution with its current line of CMTS gear-also plans to incorporate the company's software with its next-generation, DOCSIS 1.1-based "CAS 2000" CMTS.

Conexon is a piece of software that resides at a cable or digital-subscriber-line provider's network-operations system. When combined with a cable headend, the software takes requests for services from set-top boxes or set-top modems, configures the services and extracts billing information from the operator.

Motorola Broadband also plans to collaborate with Interactive Enterprise in laboratory settings to configure equipment for new applications and services such as voice over Internet protocol, said Pete Sherlock, general manager of network-operation solutions for Motorola Broadband's IP-network-systems business unit.

While starting to gain some ground in the United States, Conexon has been deployed by operators in Germany, France and Canada, Interactive Enterprise founder and CEO Tom Higgins said. Corp. is also using the software through a partnership with Time Warner in Tampa, Fla.

To maintain that pace in the United States, partnerships will continue to be key. "Before you get into massive deployments in the United States, you need a strong supporter like Motorola," Higgins said.