ViewsLetter(SM) on Provisioning

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ViewsLetter on Provisioning         23 Nov 2003        #33
     A fortnightly look at provisioning automation.


   Carrier Hosts Your Firewall and Virus Screen,
   Not Just Access--You Set It Up From A Browser

     --William A. Flanagan, Editor and Publisher

Pre-paid phone cards are more common around the world than in the US, so we shouldn't be surprised that pre-paid Internet access has rolled out across Chile before becoming significant here.

What surprises is the breadth of features offered:  bandwidth choices (64, 300, 500 kbit/s), firewall, virus protection, and a choice of paying for full-time flat-rate access or buying it by the minute.  What's better, it's all on-demand. 

In some sense, the IP service model is built on that of telephony, just with a different feature set.  You can compare pre-paid Internet to using a pre-paid service at any phone, public or private.  The procedure of dialing the 800 access number in telephony morphs into authenticating yourself and configuring the service you want at a Web portal from your browser.  Once the housekeeping details are settled,   you dial a voice call or request a connection on the Internet. 

The specific application is Broadband Flex service offered by VTR, a major broadband access provider in Chile, over its video cable system.  They also offer local exchange service for voice.  The service's hardware is Nortel's Shasta 5000 Broadband Service Node (BSN), which was designed to have the processing capacity needed to run individualized services while routing IP packets.  Each customer gets to configure his service through a web portal.  Nortel resells the RIO product for this function. 

The setup offers some intriguing possibilities for any IP service provider, but particularly incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (LECs).

--A requirement to authenticate and admit each user of the pre-paid service means that a LEC can provision active IP access on all lines without fearing theft of service. 
--Once the service is available on-demand, the cost to activate a paying customer and start a revenue stream is next to nothing.

Of course there are costs to preparing the network:  Shasta nodes, web portals, and equivalents do cost real money.  But once that infrastructure is in place, the current method of activating "tiny-revenue" POTS voice on a residential local loop will cost more than turning up "bigger-revenue" broadband Internet access.  And by the way, the same self-service process on a web portal lends itself to activating voice (over IP) at the same time.

LECs with rights to offer long distance service could gain substantial advantage from a "converged" network, even without video products.  Not only would revenue streams start earlier, the cost to acquire those new customers would drop sharply. 

This solution is not the "any service, any speed" vision stated in ViewsLetter #1.  IP service platforms don't provide the local loop access technology for the physical connection--that's still DSL, cable, fiber, etc., and remains a separate consideration.

But IP on demand, separated from the provisioning of physical access, is still a big step toward automated provisioning.  It also has certain implications, for better or worse:
    -- As each user must authenticate, creating a way to prevent address spoofing:  tough on anonymous spammers.
    -- But then there's no way to be anonymous without using a proxy server:  Big Brother may indeed be watching.

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"Flanagan Consulting" and "ViewsLetter" are Service Marks of W. A. Flanagan, Inc.
 Updated: 17 July 2004 2003

Flanagan ConsultingSM
W. A. Flanagan, Inc.
45472 Holiday Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
Ph:  +1.703.242.8381
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