The telecom and cable TV sectors for decades have lived and died by the truck roll. Getting live install and repair personnel to the customer sites has been crucial for supporting services, but also a tremendous operational expense. That is finally starting to change, according to Incognito Software Systems, a company that supports remote provisioning and management for broadband services and devices. And as with so many things that have changed in the last few years, it is a shift that has been kicked into a higher gear by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Broadband connected homes have evolved more into hybrid remote working spaces, as well as amped-up entertainment spaces. The connected home is no longer defined by Wi-Fi linked to a laptop and maybe a TV, but potentially multiple kinds of connectivity linked to several computers, smartphones, TVs, speakers, alarms and virtual assistant devices that control it all, from the light bulbs to the volume of music played throughout the home.
The change is requiring service providers to up their management games with more service and device usage and performance analytics, and when necessary, remote management capabilities that do not rely on an expensive and time-consuming truck roll that may have to be scheduled days in advance.
“Quite honestly, the pandemic has pushed the envelope to remote management and remote visibility,” said Ladi Astrab, director of sales engineering at Incognito. The comapny's software has been used by companies like Orange, Digicel, Atlantic Broadband, Optima Italia and Enable Fibre Broadband of New Zealand, among others. “Each region [of the world] is a little bit different, each moving at a different pace, but they're all moving in that direction.”
He noted that while workers in some regions of the world are returning en masse to centralized offices, the trend across North America so far has been one of adapting corporate policies – and upgrading connected homes – to support more hybrid or full-on remote working. This has helped “swing the pendulum” to increased demand for remote provisioning, management and analytics.
Incognito is answering that growing need with products based on industry standards, such as TR-069 for remote full-lifecycle management of residential telecom services and TR-369, which was designed for remote management of increasingly automated enterprise settings and connected residential environments becoming more densely populated with IoT devices and connections. The company also offers other aspects of service orchestration, firmware management, IP resource management, and monetization and analytics capabilities, as well as a Broadband Command Center product for DOCSIS-based provisioning.
Hiding in Plain Sight
If you do an internet search for “Incognito,” you are likely to come up with dozens of explanatory articles about how to activate private “incognito” mode for web browsers. Buried amid those articles, you might find one reference to Incognito Software Systems, the Vancouver, British Columbia, company that has been supporting telecom and cable operators and device vendors since 1992.
In fact, Incognito might be the most appropriately named company in the entire telecom industry. It is probably not the first name that would come to mind even when you think more specifically about provisioning software. Amid the Amdocses and Netcrackers of the world, it has been hiding in plain sight for more than 30 years.
That is at least partially by design, according to Astrab, as provisioning is supposed to be part of the “magic” working in the background of telecom and cable networks to activate and manage services and devices for customers. Like the making of sausage, the less seen, the better.
For much of Incognito’s existence it has played the role of a not-often-discussed supporting player for both service providers and much larger vendors.
Astrab said the company got one of its first big breaks with Motorola to support cable modem provisioning. “Cisco with CNR had a provisioning suite all the way through, but Motorola didn't,” Astrab said. “Motorola had a CMTS and was moving ahead on cable modems but had no provisioning software, and that's how Incognito was brought into the broadband space, and pretty much the rest of that is history.”
Along the way, it also has engaged in “co-opetition” with companies like Amdocs, competing with some aspects of the broad OSS and BSS portfolio of Amdocs, but on other occasions bringing to bear its provisioning expertise in partnership with larger OSS/BSS vendors to support a particular operator.
In reality, Incognito is itself a piece of a much larger software portfolio operated by the Lumine Group, which is owned by Constellation Software, the largest independent software company in Canada.
“Constellation buys companies and it doesn't sell them; it fine-tunes them,” Astrab said. “We've got guidelines within the company so that we can't go and just say, ‘We're going to go make the best espresso machine out there' because maybe the market doesn’t need an espresso machine."
He continued: "Our product development follows on industry standards and what the customers want. I could say it’s all based on what our brainiac engineers come up with, but there's a lot more structure around it. We do what we do because the customer wants it, and we don’t do some of the things we don’t do because for our market it doesn't make sense.”