IPTV World Forum: Reducing customer support costs

A big, big problem with IPTV is that it can ramp up an operator's OPEX costs dramatically, wiping out profitability from new services. The Yankee Group found that supporting new IPTV and/or VoIP customers can routinely be as much as €641/US$1,000 annually. A 2006 survey of ten carriers found that IPTV and VoIP generated three to four times more calls from customers than those with just broadband service. Recently a French carrier revealed that it had had 300,000 broadband modems returned, but 86% of them were not found to be faulty.

IXIA has come up with a solution it calls 1xRave, a remote access verification engine, the beta of which has been deployed by Bell Canada for over a year, with startling results. It is integrated into the operator's OSS to monitor service turn-up, fault isolation and SLA monitoring.

Bell Canada found that 1xRave:

"¢ reduced the frequency of support calls within the first week of installation by 50%;

"¢ call duration and repeat call volume fell by 20%;

"¢ truck rolls for IP troubles reduced by 98%;

"¢ 86% of defective tagged DSLAM ports were recovered.

The Canadian operator reckons this amounts to a first year saving of €12.249 million/C$18.8 million and will result in €29.32 million/C$45 million in year two rising to €39.01 million/C$60 million in the third year after installation.

Neal Roche, VP, Converged Monitoring Business, IXIA, explains how 1xRave works: it sits in the core of the network and can test each element of a broadband link, including the user's router, right across the seven layers, from the physical layer to applications. Most operators only have layer two testing and their customer service agents can do little beyond asking basic questions because the probes are within the core network (and don't look at the DSLAMs) and tend send alerts, without providing much if any information about the nature of the problem.

Roche said, "The key is that customer service agents have access to the easy to use tools, so can help the customer and diagnose problems for them on the spot." IXIA claims the 1xRave payback period is six months.