Establishing a zero-touch configuration process
Big telco providers usually serve different market segments. In the business segment, the customer is no longer required to have any PBX installed on premise. Instead, the PBX is hosted by the telco as a virtual service. The customer only connects its CPEs (customer premises equipment) like VoIP desktop phones to the Internet and the CPEs configure themselves automatically by connecting to an ACS (auto configuration server).
As a consequence, telcos now have the burden to not just manage the virtualized PBX, but to configure, manage, and monitor the customer’s CPEs, too. Ideally, everything is handled in a zero-touch process. The customer only connects the pre-configured CPE to the Internet and the CPE is ready to take and answer calls.
In such a scenario, the telco can provide a web portal to its customers so that they can setup the service on their own. For example, users are created and associated with CPEs so that the right phone “rings” when the user is called. More advanced use-cases are setup of hunt groups, calling queues, auto attendants, etc.
In order to manage CPEs, the telco must solve 2 main challenges:
- connecting to the customer’s CPE
- standardized management operations
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Connecting to CPEs via SIP
Since the early VoIP days, establishing a connection from the telco to the VoIP phone has been a major challenge. CPEs are usually not directly reachable as they are located behind some corporate firewall or end-user router. Still, a connection is required, for example to inform the phone about an incoming call.
Also in case of configuring CPEs, the telco must be able to reach the phone, for example to update the configuration or initiate download of a new firmware. Various techniques exist to solve the NAT traversal problem. The most prominent one is the STUN mechanism.
TR-069 offers several key advantages:
- fast and standardized way to manage CPEs
- secure by using HTTP authentication and HTTPS protocol to reach the CPE
- support for configuration, monitoring, diagnostics, and firmware management
SIP and TR-069 work nicely together. A SIP request is used to trigger a TR-069 session. The CPE connects to the ACS to get TR-069 operations like updating the configuration.
It is a fascinating experience to see the whole zero-touch process in action. A button of a CPE is configured in a web portal. Immediately after clicking the save button in the web, the new button configuration shows up on the phone’s display. The perfect customer experience I would say!
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