With respect to broadband, cable operators and other ISPs have long hung their hats on speeds and pricing to drive that business.
Although broadband remains a critical, high-margin business element for service providers, the ability to grow those revenues long term will be hampered as the broadband market becomes increasingly saturated.
As Israel-based startup Inango views it, the next phase in the evolution of the broadband business for service providers is to layer on additional, revenue-driving apps and services spanning anti-virus software, cloud storage, WiFi management and diagnostics, and IoT security. While most of those are available to consumers as separate, retail products, ISPs now have the opportunity to sell and distribute those products themselves via millions of their own managed in-home devices.
"We see this as the next step for them," Jonathan Masel, Inango's CEO, said.
This trend is already forming. Several MSOs and ISPs integrate anti-virus services with broadband, have launched or plan to launch premium whole-home WiFi products. Comcast, for example, is using its "xFi" platform to unleash a wave of products to millions of gateways that either add value to the company's broadband service or, in the case of its new xFi Advanced Security offering, bring in more incremental revenue.
There's gold in them thar modems!
Inango also believes that existing modems, gateways and routers represent platforms on which to deploy a new mix of services. They're always on, usually managed by the service provider and have visibility into the traffic flowing in and out of the home. The challenge is that many of these deployed routers lack the free memory required to support a bevy of new services, and ISPs typically would rather avoid taking on a software integration project that would span a range of gateway and modem models from various original equipment manufacturers.
That's a headache that is not only difficult for a service provider to maintain, but also one that's not scalable, Masel maintains.
Inango hopes to address these issues and "set the router free" with a new Virtual Services platform whereby the heavy lifting (including the app/services launcher) is performed in the cloud and works in tandem with a small client (about 500 kilobytes) running on the home-side device. Both ends would be linked by an encrypted channel.
"Memory is often at a premium, even on modern modems and routers," Masel said. By virtualizing the approach, he added, service providers would be in a position to extend the capabilities of the router and take advantage of third-party services powered by the network.
Once that's in place, service providers "can deploy more services without having to touch the router again," Masel said.
Inango's role is to provide an operating environment for the third-party apps and services it ends up partnering with. As the company envisions it, ISPs could use such a combination to offer a "supermarket" of services.
Inango, which will be demonstrating its new platform at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, does not have any deployments of its Virtual Services platform with service providers to point to. However, lab testing is underway with a Tier 1 provideer in Europe and another in North America, according to Masel.
He said Inango has likewise developed a version of its Virtual Services platform to run on RDK-B, the pre-integrated software stack for broadband devices being managed by a joint venture of Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications. The company has also developed a version for OpenWrt, an open source software stack for retail devices that has linkages to Prpl, a carrier-focused initiative that is drawing interest from both telcos and cable operators.
"We can get [Virtual Services] running in a wide range of environments," Masel said
Virtual Services is a new area of focus for Inango, a privately held company with a team of 60-plus people that's been focused on open source-based automated test suite products. For example, its Persistent Management Agent product, used to manage Gfast and G.hn distribution point units that might not be online, is based on OpenDaylight.
- Why ISPs Are High on Whole-Home WiFi
- Comcast Uses AI to Clamp Down on Cyber Threats
- Open Source Opening New Doors for RDK
- Charter Might Paint Its Home Gateways & Devices 'Prpl'
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading