Reliability Is the Next Step on the Road to Intelligent, Adaptive Networks

Network Reliability


Jun 25, 2024

Key Points

  • Reliability is the new standard for user experiences as we work toward an adaptive era of seamless connectivity.
  • DOCSIS®️ 4.0 technology moves us closer to true seamless connectivity and interoperability with technologies capable of higher throughput, lower latency and greater network cohesion.
  • As part of our Technology Vision, CableLabs is spearheading technology innovation in areas like proactive network maintenance (PNM), network and service reliability, and optical operations and maintenance.

Reliability is the new standard for customer experiences, outpacing speed as the metric users care about most. According to 2023 consumer research, reliable broadband is the second most important consideration for people considering a home purchase, 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 typical scenarios.

The growing demand for uninterrupted connectivity correlates directly with 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 quality experiences in each of those arenas.

As part of CableLabs’ Technology Vision, we’re fostering collaboration with CableLabs members 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 intelligent, adaptive networks.

What Do We Mean by Broadband Reliability?

The term “reliability” means different things in different contexts. In terms of broadband, the term encompasses latency, connectivity, availability and resilience. Each new version of DOCSIS® technology has moved us closer to these goals.

With the introduction of DOCSIS 4.0 technology, we’re moving closer to true interoperability with technologies capable of faster speeds, higher throughput, lower latency and greater overall network cohesion. All this assures a more reliable broadband experience!

At CableLabs, we embrace all these concepts and we’re seeking to move the needle on both network reliability and service reliability:

  • Network Reliability — The impact of failure — both financially and in terms of user experience — increases exponentially as user activity and network capacity increase. Network reliability aims to reduce the possibility of failure by creating a network that is resilient, available, repairable and maintainable. A reliable network also includes robust redundancy to ensure performance and continuity.
  • Service Reliability — From a user perspective, reliability refers to the probability of not experiencing a service disruption. In the pursuit of seamless connectivity, the goal is to create always-on user experiences in which users can transition between networks without experiencing disruption.

Defining a Roadmap Toward Broadband Reliability

Reliability in the broadband industry depends on cultivating a deep understanding of the network’s physical layer while maintaining a digital mindset. Our mission at CableLabs is to advance the way we connect, and we’re continuously working to develop innovative technology applications aimed at achieving reliability goals and improving performance.

These efforts include helping the industry embrace and connect the concepts of broadband reliability and customer experience, working together to establish interoperability and determining what evolving 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 transformed the way operators use DOCSIS technology. Its advanced analytics find and correct impairments in the network that, left untreated, will eventually impact service. PNM can help hybrid fiber coax and fiber to the home networks be equally reliable, as PNM ensures dependable connectivity by addressing problems proactively 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 are seeking to manage the resiliency capacity in the DOCSIS technology network so that users are never impacted by degradation.

With a wealth of network query and test capabilities, we continue to learn how to take full advantage of the information available to us. Development of the science behind operating DOCSIS networks is an important, ongoing effort. Carrying the knowledge into network operations is just as important.

An example of a related technology we’re developing is Generative AI (GAI) tools for network operations. As we learn more about the network and how to maintain it effectively, we need to put that knowledge to use. Through our research and development efforts, we’ve built solutions that turn knowledge into operations.

Quality by Design (QbD)

Another innovation that allows us to take advantage of such information is QbD. QbD tackles network reliability issues head-on by providing network operators direct visibility into the user experience.

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

Network and Service Reliability

This working group focuses on aligning service and network reliability and enabling operators to systematize tasks, standardize operations and ensure reliability. A 2022 paper outlines a roadmap to help operators get started on their journey toward addressing network and service reliability.

This working group has extended the roadmap into a more comprehensive set of practices that operators can implement then share their knowledge to develop efficient management of network and service reliability. Through a forthcoming SCTE publication, the working group will be defining practices that help operators ensure broadband networks and services are reliable and continue to improve. As networks transition to new technologies and services expand in their use of communications, this working group will continue to assure that reliable networks and services are built within.

Optical Operations and Maintenance

The optical operations and maintenance working group is focused on aligning KPIs and streamlining operations to simplify the maintenance of optical networks. Participation has been strong, and the group already has agreement on a base architecture. The next step is to identify key telemetry and build solutions that support specific use cases.

Through simplification, we can improve interoperability tools, get new technologies to market faster and streamline networks overall. Overarching goals include reducing complexity, ensuring consistency and improving broadband reliability.

Tools and Readiness

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

Where Are We Headed?

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 on three key themes: Seamless Connectivity; Network Platform Evolution; and Pervasive Intelligence, Security and Privacy. Within those themes, CableLabs is working with world-class experts to deliver flexible, reliable network solutions that can enable new services and improve user experiences.

How to Get Involved

CableLabs members have several opportunities to collaborate in cultivating the future of broadband technology. Consider attending our next Interop·Labs event, which will include PNM testing of DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems. Or join a working group to help move the needle on finding solutions for industry challenges.

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 collaboration will unlock the door to the next stage of broadband innovation.