In previous articles, we have discussed the importance of early adoption of automation processes when rolling out fiber networks. The article showed how to utilize Netadmin Nine's Ticket Management capability to support and visualize those processes. We believe that if you can automate a workflow, you should do it. Here, we will give you an example of how to automate and simplify for both technicians and end-customers.
As a part of the roll-out process, Netadmin Nine offers the Fiber Installation Portal to assist the builders with an easy to use portal where the installed fiber is validated for quality before the drop is considered completed. The Fiber Installation Portal also provides the possibility to collect automatically, for example, current fiber signal values. If a valid result of the configured rules, an automatic connection to an address will be made in Netadmin Nine to document the geographical location of where the fiber is terminated, all verified by the technician directly on site.
When an address has been properly installed and verified for quality, there might already be a service waiting for provisioning onto that address, depending on the business process. It is also common with business processes where the fiber is installed regardless of any prior need for the end customer's to sign up for a service beforehand, especially in MDU cases like apartment buildings where the estate owner still want to be able to provide services such as internet, telephony, and TV over fiber. For these scenarios, Netadmin provides a self-service capability where the customer could sign up and order services without, for example, the need to interact with a salesperson over a phone-call.
Both the Fiber Installation Portal and the Netadmin self-service portal require that the technician and the end customer have knowledge about the portal's existence and knowledge about where to reach them and how to get there. For a network owner, that is information that must be communicated to both the technicians performing service and installation but also to the potential end-customers interested in signing up for services. That information part could quickly become tedious and may lead to result in misinformation leading to delayed installation and/or unsatisfied end customer experience.
Is there anything that could be done to simplify this and prevent a potential problem?
Netadmin Captive Portal
At multiple system installations, Netadmin has provided what we call the Captive Portal. With the Captive Portal, Netadmin provides functionality that automatically guides both technicians and end-customers to the correct portal or other endpoints with as little interaction by the human as possible. A set of rules defined together with the network owner per Captive Portal installation decides the resulting portal. The Netadmin Captive Portal operates using a walled garden network segment, usually a separate VLAN with a very limiting firewall configuration. The segment is supposed to be completely locked down with a minimal set of firewall rules that only allow network traffic to explicit destinations or redirected to the portal valid for the current installation status. The result is that the technician finalizing the fiber installation, or the end customer, only need to connect their computer into the ONT, CPE, or wall socket, open a browser and browse to the URL of choice - a redirect is then performed to the destination corresponding to the current installation status. Some computer operating systems automatically detect that the computer is behind a captive portal and might offer to automatically open the preferred browser and load the Netadmin Captive Portal.
How it works
The short description of how the redirection works is that it utilizes the operator-controlled walled garden network to intercept communications. Then the backend of the Netadmin Captive Portal identifies the location in the network by utilizing Option82 information provided with DHCP requests that are registered from the walled garden network segment.
When the technician or end-customer tries to browse to a destination of choice, a DNS request is performed automatically by the browser. This request is replied to by the DNS server provided by Netadmin Captive Portal regardless of which DNS server is configured in the connected computers' operating system. The response is always the IP to the Netadmin Captive Portal server unless the requested domain has been configured in the Netadmin Captive Portal DNS server, then the IP configured for that host entry is replied.
The redirection is initiated using an HTTP request. This request is responded to by the Netadmin Captive Portal web server. The Captive Portal recalls the DHCP Option82 information corresponding to the requesting source IP and is processed by the Captive Portal backend that identifies the correct device and physical interface in the Netadmin Device Inventory.
Once the Captive Portal backend has identified the device that the technician or end-customer is connected to, the backend can process the rules for identifying where to redirect; the Netadmin Fiber Installation Portal, self-service portal, or other destination such as a portal provided by the ISP where the customer can be informed about why their internet service, for example, is disabled.
The resulting redirection destination will, as mentioned above, differ due to the identified installation status and most probably other rules. If redirection occurs to the Netadmin Fiber Installation Portal, then its purpose is to, at least, make sure that the currently installed drop receives a geographical location represented by an address in the Netadmin system. Upon successful activation in the Fiber Installation Portal, the address's installation status is also usually updated. If there were an internet service waiting for provisioning, its provisioning job in Netadmin might be notified about the new status and therefore able to continue the necessary configuration. If there were no waiting service, the walled garden network segment will still be applied to the physical interface and could allow the end customer to sign up for an internet service using the self-service portal. Either case, the internet services' provisioning job is supposed to remove the access to the walled garden network segment and apply the segment for the actual service instead. If the customer cancels the service in the future, the walled garden network segment is applied again, allowing redirection to the self-service portal to occur again.
Our and our customers, experience with a capability like the Netadmin Captive Portal, is very good. It has helped many customers over the years to simplify both their installation process as well as increase the experience for both technicians and end customers.