When Comcast Corp. took control of AT&T Broadband, it faced a number of integration headaches, including the assimilation of two distinctly different provisioning systems for high-speed Internet services.
“Classic Comcast” systems — or those owned by the Philadelphia-based MSO prior to the 2001 mega-merger — used gear from Sigma Systems, while AT&T Broadband, the former Tele-Communications Inc., had its own, in-house solution.
Comcast naturally wanted to merge all data provisioning onto one system and lay the groundwork to add digital voice services and, eventually, video-services provisioning to the platform, said senior vice president of operations Mitch Bowling.
After nine months of work, that project, titled Bedrock, was completed this summer. Comcast has moved all data provisioning to a new system, built by the MSO and JacobsRimell. New digital voice subscribers are being provisioned through the system.
'FASTER TO MARKET’
“This solution provides a better experience for both the engineering side and the business side of Comcast,” Bowling said. “It allows us to be faster to market and provide a better interface for customers and employees.”
The work started years ago, Bowling said. “We had one provisioning system, and AT&T had one provisioning system,” he explained.
“The goal was to have one system, and we took the opportunity to start from ground zero to design it in such a way that it meets the needs of future business plans,” Bowling added.
The first step was to design the new provisioning system with key vendor JacobsRimell.
“Provisioning isn’t a trivial device,” Bowling said. “It’s a complex suite of several elements.
“You have to have the proper linkages and conduct extensive testing,” he said.
Systems were put onto the new platform market by market. Existing data on cable-modem ID numbers, media-access controller addresses and customer information was moved into the new provisioning system.
After each market was converted, new subscribers would automatically be provisioned using the new system.
What Bowling likes about the new setup is how far it can be extended. Comcast can launch multiple products using the platform.
“The original product was just data,” Bowling said. Now all voice provisioning will be done on the new platform. “The vision is to provision all three products.”
NEW APPLICATIONS COMING
Cross-device applications, like caller ID via TV, are coming. “We have that vision of converged products,” Bowling said. “We need systems that have extensibility and flexibility to realize that.”
But some things haven’t changed. The user interface that customer-service representatives and technicians use remains the same. It’s just that the interface now talks to the new provisioning system. That interface continuity eased the transition for employees.
“Our goal was not to disrupt the customers or the employees,” he said.
But among its tool enhancements, the new system allows technicians to see into embedded multimedia terminal adapters.
The self-installation process now takes a customer eight minutes, versus 12 minutes with the previous provisioning system. And former AT&T subscribers couldn’t self-install at all, Bowling said.
Had Comcast failed to undertake the Bedrock project, it would have had to key in all customer information twice.
“It would have taken two systems to interface for CSRs to do voice and data,” he said.
The system also will allow subscribers to eventually upgrade and choose their levels of service. That enhancement, which has not yet been deployed, is on the product road map, Bowling said.
The new system also affords Comcast the ability to deploy a digital voice center. Launched in two markets, it allows voice subscribers to log in online, and view their bill or call history.
“We will roll that out everywhere,” he said.