USP – An opinion on Internet Service Providers’ future profits, Telco-to-Techco and value-added services

The question of where telecom operators’ future profits will come from has loomed large as purely selling data proves unsustainable in the long term. This isn’t a new challenge, but it has taken a while for the industry to respond and realize the potential of value-added services.


Some of the services being considered as viable options include: Smart-Home, Internet of Things (IoT), Wi-Fi Management, Smart-Healthcare and Parental-Control. Each of these value-added services bring unique challenges, some of which are more pronounced in the South African market. For instance, despite the availability of some quality Smart-Home/IoT options in the market, none has managed to become mainstream. The challenge lies in South Africans’ lack of expendable income, prohibiting the technology from achieving critical mass.


For these value-added services to meet their initial goal of creating new revenue streams for service providers, the management of these solutions needs to be uncomplicated and cost-effective. Fortunately, the World Broadband Forum has addressed these concerns with the introduction of TR-369 or User Services Platform/USP, an evolution of the TR-069 CPE WAN Management Protocol (CWMP). This new standard simplifies managing diverse Smart-Home or IoT vendor environments, avoiding proprietary management systems per vendor or brand. USP also enables a single CPE to be managed by multiple ACS servers, allowing 3rd party service providers, specialising in one particular field such as parental control or wifi management, to overlay a service on top of the ISP’s access service. This creates a very distinct opportunity for ISPs to resell additional services, creating more stickiness and more value.


Parental control services, for example, require constant updates to white/blacklists to keep up with emerging threats and harmful content. Maintaining these lists is not a core focus for Service Providers, leaving it to specialised service providers. USP facilitates the implementation of such a service, that enforces such dynamic 3rd party lists on traffic passing through a subscriber’s CPE. This interaction is not only confined to a service provider’s TR-069 ACS infrastructure but also engages with a 3rd party’s service infrastructure, where specialist services like parental control are provided and maintained. For a deeper dive into how USP addresses these challenges, visit Axiros’ TR-369 USP knowledgebase webpage.


Some value-add features and services might not be well-suited to be delivered and maintained via such a 3rd party “live” service. In cases such as these, the feature is to be implemented on the CPE firmware code itself. This, however, is a costly and laborious process, which, more often than not, includes an equipment manufacturer demanding a robust minimum order quantity in order for them to include the service. Various such initiatives fail, not only due to the high-cost of adding the service to the CPE firmware, but also the code maintenance that follows that firmware branch around until the CPE is terminated. USP offers a solution by setting standards for Software Module Management (SMM), analogous to the app-store on smartphones, allowing service providers to procure in-demand micro-services from various specialist vendors. This mechanism enables providers to offer a wide range of options to subscribers and automatically provision the subscriber’s unique selection on their CPE. This strategy significantly improves the product lifecycle management of CPE hardware, as new services can be added over time without needing to replace the hardware.


Also, see the following article published on the World Broadband Forum’s website by Jason Walls, (Chair of the Broadband Forum Connected Home Council, and Director of Technical Marketing at QA Café), on the impact USP is expected to have on Smart-Home and IoTHow Operators Can Secure Value From a Managed Connected Home – Broadband Forum