Firmware is often a tricky topic for service providers, but I’ve found there’s one major issue that keeps up with mid-to-large sized operators — and it doesn’t have an easy solution. How can you upgrade firmware on a device before it’s provisioned into the network?
Here are two scenarios where such a need may arise:
- A customer purchases a device in a retail store that is on the wrong firmware version. The customer expects to be able to go home and “plug-and-play” the device, only to discover that the device doesn’t work. This results in an annoyed phone call to the customer support department — something every provider dreads.
- The service provider receives a fleet of devices that are all on the wrong version of firmware. These devices need to be upgraded manually before being given out to customers.
Resolving these scenarios require a number of time-consuming, manual processes, either after receiving customer support calls (in scenario 1) or by going through devices one-by-one in a lab environment (scenario 2). These processes put extra pressure on staff, increase costs, and in the “plug-and-play” scenario, can reduce the subscriber’s quality of experience (QoE).
So, what’s the optimal solution?
To start with, it’s essential to have an automated way to keep track of the firmware versions on your network. A centralized solution would automatically update known instances of incorrect firmware versions across the network.
For both scenarios above, this would mean that the firmware version would be detected and updated as soon as the device is plugged in at the customer premises, before it is provisioned to come online. As a result, the customer would not notice downtime because the correct firmware version would be instated with the onboot firmware upgrade. In the second scenario, an automated onboot firmware update would save hours in the lab by upgrading possibly hundreds to thousands of devices.
For network administrators, automating onboot firmware updates streamlines a complex process into three simple steps:
- Specify which version of firmware needs to be updated for a device model and vendor
- Set the new version of firmware required and update configuration parameters
- The firmware will upgrade onboot