Adams Cable, a small MSO in northeastern Pennsylvania, has rolled out an online provisioning system from Lemur Networks Inc. designed to cut down on staff and paperwork time.
"To provision a cable modem, we were expending hours of manpower and leaving an enormous paper trail," said Adams senior network engineer Brian Muha. "We needed to implement an effective provisioning solution which would reduce the amount of paperwork and centralize our information."
Today, Carbondale, Pa.-based Adams counts 1,500 cable-modem subscribers across its 27,000-subscriber system.
Lemur's I-Fabric system places key operating tools in the hands of cable-system employees — or even subscribers — to cut down on service calls and truck rolls, the company said.
"We integrate data, not systems," said Apollo Guy, vice president of marketing at the Shrewsbury, N.J.-based vendor. "We push data out across the network to propagate changes in data as required.
"CSRs should have high-level tools," he said. And it's important "to let customers know what their usage patterns are," which can help reduce expensive calls to customer-service representatives.
Lemur's goal is to automate and streamline "the provisioning, activation and management of [Internet protocol]-based service, including full telephony," Guy said.
The company's software serves to connect ordering, billing, customer-relationship management, usage management and trouble ticketing functions on one side of the network with provisioning, monitoring, performance reporting, fault management and device inventory on the other, Guy said.
"The software sits on a CD-ROM and the hardware fits into one rack space," Guy said. The large MSOs have put provisioning elements in place, but they've used hodgepodge solutions, he said.
"They've solved the problem but its not the most effective way of doing it," Guy said. "The way to save operating expenses is to automate. In order to make margins, they can't afford to roll trucks."
And small players like Adams often have little more than billing systems in place when they launch IP service.
Lemur's software is compliant with Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s PacketCable standard, said Guy, and supports the evolution of telephony from circuit-switched to hybrid to a complete Internet-protocol format.
"We can simultaneously provision disparate and highly complex IP telephony components," Guy said.
Lemur is a cheaper alternative for MSOs because so much information and responsibility is placed in the operator's hands, according to Guy.
"We don't rely on professional services to solve the problem," he said — a reliance that can be costly compared leaving it up to a few key information-technology professionals within a cable operation.
Lemur bases its charges on the number of homes activated. "We don't get paid until you generate subscribers," he said.
The vendor also uses directories as a data store, rather than more-expensive databases, he added.
"Databases are expensive and inefficient to use," he said. "It's important to make changes in information and send them out quickly," he said, adding that can be done with directories.
So far, Lemur has helped Adams cut its provisioning time down from one hour to five minutes for its four different, speed-based packages offered to businesses and residences, Muha said. The reductions in manpower costs and paperwork enjoyed by Lemur's system also reduces the chances for human error.
In addition to the Adams rollout, Guy said Lemur is negotiating trial deployments with operators, including one with an IP telephony flavor.
Lemur Networks was launched in April 2001 with $7 million in funding from several venture-capital firms. Former AT&T Laboratories executive Seyhan Civanlar is CEO and co-founder.
Comcast Corp. cable unit senior vice president of new media Steve Craddock is on the vendor's board of directors, and Stephen Dukes, Walt Cicora and Ed Horowitz, among others, serve on Lemur's technical advisory board.