5 Ways An Outdated Firmware Update Approach Costs Your Business

Keeping firmware updated on all subscribers’ cable modems is a burdensome task, but an important one. DOCSIS 3.1 is the first update of the standard since 2006. It offers the fastest Internet connections yet, potentially as high as 10 Gbps. Having the latest version provides the best security features as well as performance.

The problem is that traditional methods of pushing modem firmware updates are clumsy. First, it’s necessary to scan modems to determine which ones have older firmware, and which of them are capable of being updated. Then a batch process has to update them all. A lot of manual work is involved, and some modems will be left behind. It’s a costly and inefficient approach, for at least five reasons:

Manual work is time-consuming and expensive

The batch update will usually run late at night, to minimize disruptions. Employees will need to check its results the next day. If it failed early, it might have to be re-run. Failures to update need to be pulled out to see what went wrong. Anyone scan won’t catch all modems since some will be offline at any moment. Without an automated approach to firmware updates, it’s a lather-rinse-repeat process. Technicians should be putting their time into more productive activities.

The customer experience is erratic

A failed firmware update may leave a modem in an inoperable state, and a batch process won’t detect this. By the time confirmation tests are run (if they are), the customer might have been disconnected for hours. In some cases, the problem might not be identified till the customer reports it.

Devices fall behind

Inevitably, some devices will fall through during a batch update and will still have the old firmware. This creates a variety of headaches. DOCSIS previous to 3.0 doesn’t support IPv6. Modems that haven’t been updated need to draw on the scarce pool of IPv4 addresses and deal with NAT. They don’t get the speed benefits of the new protocols. DOCSIS 3.1 includes new maintenance and testing capabilities, easing the job of support technicians to the extent that it’s deployed. Version 3.0 has been around long enough that every cable modem should at least be at that level, but without a systematic, automated approach to firmware updates, it’s impossible to guarantee it.

Older versions may have security issues

DOCSIS 3.0 supports EAE (early authentication and encryption), improving security over previous versions. Version 3.1 introduces a new PKI, with a new certificate. Spoofing modems and introducing malware is more difficult. Having to keep backward compatibility creates risks, and ideally, all modems should be upgraded at least to 3.0, or replaced with newer models if they can’t be. This is a realistic goal only if the upgrading process is fully under control.

New services can’t be deployed with old firmware

Bringing networks up to the highest speed levels requires the latest version of DOCSIS. DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 provide faster upstreaming than their predecessors, allowing offerings such as higher-quality conferencing. Customers who don’t have it can’t upgrade to these features, however much they’d like to. The result is a loss of potential revenue.

Automated firmware management brings upgrades under control, making sure that all cable modems are upgraded on schedule. Benefits include:

More complete and accurate information

When you have up-to-date information on what devices have been upgraded and how many haven’t, you can make better business decisions.

Greater customer satisfaction

Getting to the latest firmware without disruption means that customers get the highest service quality and have more options to buy new or upgraded services.

Lower costs

Technicians can spend less time managing firmware upgrades, and fewer field service calls are necessary.

As your customer base grows, automated firmware updates become more and more critical. Get in touch with us to find out how you can modernize your update process.

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