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Automatic Broadband Service Tester

By Wayne Kawamoto     Feedback

NetFlare automatically checks ISP services, and presents the test results in a Web screen visible to both consumer and help desk technician, considerably reducing call center calls and escalation.

Teradyne, Inc.'s Broadband Test Division announced the availability of NetFlare, the company's new Internet test system designed to reduce costs for ISPs and broadband call centers focused on consumer and small business. NetFlare accomplishes this by identifying the owner of connectivity and performance problems in the end-to-end network (meaning from the PC to enterprise web site).

NetFlare should allow service providers to quickly determine whether the problem is in the access network, ISP network, Internet backbone, or destination website. Based on the company's trial results from a live operation in a DSL call center, Netflare reduced call handling time at Tier 1 and Tier 2 by up to 65 percent over current methods and improves overall consumer satisfaction with broadband service.

NetFlare employs an approach known as active IP testing that focuses on a protocol stack to isolate connectivity, services, and performance related calls to the responsible jurisdiction from the consumer PC to the destination. NetFlare performs tests at the IP layer, whether the broadband service is over copper, cable, wireless, or satellite. When a consumer reports a problem, NetFlare performs a two minute test while the consumer is on the phone with the call center receptionist. The service guides both the consumer and operator through an automated test and analysis sequence utilizing standard web-based interfaces.

According to the company, NetFlare's accuracy, value, and throughput were proven in a network wide trial with TELUS of Canada. The trial was completed in May of 2001. Telus placed an order in June for full deployment and is now using NetFlare in Tier 1 and 2 of their DSL call center operations. In the trial, operators at both in-house and out-sourced call centers used NetFlare to interactively resolve consumer trouble reports. Teradyne says that after an automated test of less than two minutes, call center technicians were able to determine whether a call should be closed out, escalated, or routed directly to repair. Problems were resolved with the customer on the line: increasing one-touches and reducing escalations to the back-office.

Teradyne claims that Netflare information helps service providers increase the productivity and quality standards of their call centers by:

1) Reducing performance call handling time at Tier 1 and Tier 2: Within two minutes, the call center technician is presented with the owner of the reported problem and a recommended action statement to either close the call or route to repair. By rapidly identifying performance problems in the network, call center technicians do not have to lead the subscriber in performing complicated technical tests to isolate problems. Trial results showed that NetFlare reduced average call handling time in Tier 1 and Tier 2 by 65 percent on performance and connectivity related calls.

2) Increasing 'one-touches' by reducing trouble escalations to the back-office: Call center representatives are given access and visibie information allowing them to make decisions at the point of reception. This reduces the overall technical skill-level required to support broadband services. Handoffs and escalations to Tier 2 may be reduced by 30 percent.

NetFlare consists of a NetFlare Resource Broker (NRB), and a number of strategically located Internet Diagnostic Units (IDU). The NRB handles secure user authentication, automatic routing of tests to IDUs, test session results archiving, and centralized administration. The IDU, located at a handoff point or jurisdiction boundary executes patented test techniques via a testing focused TCP/IP protocol stack to identify the source of the problem.

The analysis software presents the data collected in a manner that is easy to understand for the call center technician and the consumer at home.

NetFlare automatically measures throughput, latency, verifies availability and performance of ISP services such as DNS and e-mail, and measures the path to the consumer's desired Internet destination.

NetFlare allows the consumer and operator to quickly see the performance they are receiving specifically from the service provider's network contrasted to the end-to-end performance. When there is a problem, the jurisdiction is clearly pointed out with a recommended next step. NetFlare is a self-contained turnkey system that can be implemented network wide in a matter of weeks. No client software is required for the Subscriber or Care Technician, eliminating the distribution headaches for software upgrades.

"As broadband providers expand their service footprints to meet mounting customer demand, ISPs will seek out solutions that maximize their service delivery propositions," says Erik Keith of Current Analysis. "The NetFlare solution, which is easy to use and simple to implement in the network, enables service providers to streamline their broadband customer service guarantees through accurate trouble isolation."

"NetFlare will not only allow us to reduce call handling time and network operations center costs, but we can also improve the quality of service by providing the customer with reliable information quickly," says Winnie Lai-Fong, Manager of Service Architecture, TELUS. "NetFlare clearly shows the location and provides the relevant customer information for Internet performance problems, saving time for TELUS and our customers."

Joe Notaro, NetFlare Account Manager, added, "one of the major benefits seen by the network call center operators was the ability of NetFlare to simultaneously display the test results to the consumer and operator. This greatly reduced the amount of work required to isolate the network trouble by making the explanation and discussions of next steps much more efficient."

Availability and pricing
NetFlare is available today.

The pricing is based on the capabilities customized to the particular needs of an ISP.

Reprinted from ISP Planet

This article was originally published on August 29, 2001
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