CPE is an acronym for customer premises Equipment, which refers to any connected equipment that is used to access the Internet or is generally used to access services on a provider network, whether be directly or indirectly connected to that network. CPE may be provided by a telecommunications provider, such as a cable operator, telephone company or satellite provider. These companies either rent this equipment to the customer, provide it at no charge as part of the service, or allow the customer to purchase and provide their own equipment. As the name indicates, the CPE will sit on the client side of the network and may be a demarcation point between the provider network (WAN) and the subscriber's home network (or LAN). A local area network (LAN) can contain multiple CPEs, such as cable modems, home routers, and various PCs. While the cable modem serves as the demarcation point of the provider's network, devices inside the home are still considered CPE! Another typical home setup would include a fiber-to-the-home ("FTTH" or "GPON") modem or ONT, perhaps with a built-in wireless router. In the case of cable modems, the CPE connects to the cable provider's coaxial or "RF" network and delivers Internet services either directly or through a wireless router. For GPON or 10G FTTH ONT, the connection to the provider network is a fiber-optic connection to the Internet, and is delivered via Ethernet or wireless signals inside the subscriber's home. Satellite-based CPE then reconnects through a variety of technology, which converts the data to be used in communication via a satellite system via video or an Internet connection.
Why is Good Performing CPE More Critical Than Ever?
With so many people spending time at home during the COVID-19 crisis, the use of CPEs needs to be as seamless and hassle-free as possible. Whether it is data CPE devices or video CPEs, or combined multi-function devices are more common today, people rely more than ever on technology to work properly. Converged devices can provide multiple services at once, including Internet, video, phone, and Wi-Fi services. The combinations are endless and can present a challenge to both the users and the providers of such devices due to their complexity. The need for accurate and reliable connections to the outside world has become more important than ever during the COVID crisis. The complexity of these devices is not only related to the technology inside them, but the need to connect these devices to a myriad of other CPE devices inside the customer's home. Such devices may also need to support Wi-Fi 6 or 10G connections for mobile phones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, and of course, a variety of smart home devices. These can be wireless alarms, cameras, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and even washers and dryers. Internet of Things (IoT) devices present a challenge to providers as providers rarely provide the equipment to which the main CPE must be connected.
The Provider CPE Challenge
As mentioned, most network operators provide CPE for their customers. This CPE is rarely new and unused, but more likely it is a device that has been recycled from a previous customer. Operators receive thousands of such equipment from their customers every week. CPE may be returned because it was faulty, the customer moved to a different area, or the customer changed their level of service. The operator receives this equipment from its technicians or via mail and then needs to qualify these equipment as "good" or "bad". While most equipment is in good working order and may only need to be cleaned and repackaged, some are defective and will need to be repaired or scrapped.