USP Technology: Enabling Seamless Interoperability and Unlocking the Future of Connectivity

Hemant Rawat
USP Technology: Enabling Seamless Interoperability and Unlocking the Future of Connectivity
Illustration: © IoT For All

The telecommunications industry is undergoing a rapid transformation, with a growing demand for faster, more reliable, and more efficient communication networks.

Most present-day consumers no longer consider the home network as their responsibility. Instead, they gauge their broadband experience based on the performance of applications on their end devices, rather than solely focusing on the speed of their connection to the home network. To address these changing needs, the Broadband Forum, a prominent consortium of industry stakeholders, has introduced the User Services Platform (USP).

USP was designed with a view toward the Connected Home market segment. USP represents a breakthrough in managing and provisioning connected devices, enabling service providers to deliver enhanced user experiences, advanced network management, and seamless integration of smart home devices.

USP is targeted toward application developers, application service providers, vendors, consumer electronics manufacturers, and broadband and mobile network providers who want to expand the value of the end user’s network connection and their connected devices.

USP’s Background

The most critical customer requirement in households today is top-notch broadband service. Home Wi-Fi issues account for up to 60 percent of customer service calls, posing a substantial cost burden for telecom operators.

To address this, broadband service providers are keen on revolutionizing the management of Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs). Their goal is to gain real-time insights that can enhance the Quality of Experience (QoE) for users, predict potential failures to boost operational efficiency, expedite product and service launches in the market, and empower the delivery of value-added services.

Telecommunication companies (Telcos) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) currently rely on outdated Device Management Platforms, constructed based on Broadband Forum Standards TR-069. These platforms serve the purpose of firmware upgrades, remote monitoring, and diagnostics for home Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs). However, these legacy systems come with significant drawbacks, such as high costs due to per-device licensing, being custom-built, and challenging to maintain.

Additionally, Telcos utilize third-party software agents on Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs) to handle supplementary features and functionalities, like monitoring Wi-Fi coverage. However, Telcos and ISPs are now seeking comprehensive solutions that can facilitate the transition from TR-069-based device management to modern standards equipped with cloud-native capabilities.

What is USP?

The USP technology builds upon the successful foundation laid by the Broadband Forum’s TR-069 protocol (also known as CWMP – CPE WAN Management Protocol). While TR-069 has been widely adopted for remote management of customer-premises equipment (CPE), USP takes it to the next level by offering a more robust, scalable, and secure platform.

USP & TR-069

The User Services Platform (USP) is a standardized protocol for managing, monitoring, upgrading, and controlling connected devices. USP allows service providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and end users to:

  • Perform lifecycle management of consumer-connected devices.
  • Enable IoT and consumer electronics upgradability for critical security patches.
  • Bootstrap and configure newly installed or purchased devices and virtual services.
  • Let customer support monitor and troubleshoot connected devices, services, and home network links.
  • Easily map the home network to control service quality and monitor threats.
  • Securely control IoT, smart home, and smart networking functions locally or from the cloud.

USP leverages modern web technologies, such as JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), and WebSocket, to facilitate secure communication between service providers and connected devices. This allows for real-time monitoring, rapid troubleshooting, and seamless firmware updates, all while maintaining high security.

USP Architecture

The User Services Platform consists of a collection of Endpoints (Agents and Controllers) that allows applications to manipulate “Service Elements.” These Service Elements are made up of a set of Objects and Parameters defined in the Agent’s supported data model and exposed as the Agent’s instantiated data model. These Service Elements model a given service, such as network interfaces, software modules, device firmware, remote elements proxied through another interface, virtual elements, or other managed services.

A Controller may be an Autoconfiguration Server (ACS) similar to TR-069, controlled by an application service provider to control specific elements, or even a Controller on a smartphone or in the gateway to manipulate elements in the user’s network.

USP Controller

USP is made up of several architectural components:

  • Mechanism for discovery and trust establishment.
  • A method for encoding messages for transport.
  • A system for end-to-end confidentiality, integrity, and identity authentication.
  • Transport of messages over one or more Message Transfer Protocols (MTP) with associated MTP security.
  • A set of standardized messages based on the CRUD model (create, read, update, delete), plus an object-defined operations mechanism and a notification mechanism (CRUD-ON).
  • Authorization and access control on a per-element basis.
  • A method for modeling service elements using a set of objects, parameters, operations, and events (supported and instantiated data models).
  • Multi-tenancy support.
USP Architecture

USP Protocol Stack

All USP messages such as Add/Set/Get/Delete are encoded using Protobuf and encapsulated in a USP record. These records are used to guarantee the integrity of the USP messages and provide a layer of security when security can’t be accomplished at the message transport layer. USP Records allow an optional Session Context that allows for protected messages (payloads) and the segmentation and re-assembly of USP messages when large messages need to traverse intermediate proxies.

USP Protocol Stack

Data Model

USP is designed to allow a Controller to manipulate Service Elements on an Agent using a standardized description of those Service Elements. This standardized description is known as an information model, and an information model that is further specified for use in a particular protocol is known as a “Data Model.” This Data Model is specified in XML.

The data model for describing the service elements exposed by USP Agents is defined in the Device:2 Root Data Model (published as TR-181 Issue 2). The models for CWMP and USP pull from the same common core with some minor changes for protocol-specific management objects.

USP In Action with MQTT MTP

USP Messages are exchanged between Controllers and Agents. In some deployment scenarios, the Controller and Agent have a direct connection. In other deployment scenarios, the messages exchanged by the Controller and Agent traverse multiple intermediate MTP Proxies. The latter deployment scenario typically occurs when the Agent or Controller is deployed outside the proximal or Local Area Network.

USP messages are sent between Endpoints over one or more Message Transfer Protocols.

The Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) MTP transfers USP Records between USP Endpoints using the MQTT protocol. Messages that are transferred between MQTT clients utilize a message bus interaction model where the MQTT server is the messaging broker that routes and delivers messages based on the Topic Name included in the MQTT Publish packet variable header.

MQTT Server

When a new device is added to the network, the device can publish its availability and capabilities to the USP platform using MQTT. This discovery process allows the USP platform to identify and recognize the new device, making it ready for provisioning and management.

Once devices are integrated with the USP platform using MQTT, they can continuously exchange real-time data. Devices publish important information, such as sensor readings or status updates, to specific topics on the MQTT broker. The USP platform, subscribed to these topics, can receive and process the data accordingly.

The USP platform can also send commands and control messages to the devices via MQTT. For example, if a user wants to adjust the thermostat temperature, the USP platform can publish a command message to the MQTT topic associated with the thermostat, instructing it to change its settings.

Security is essential when managing connected devices. Both USP and MQTT provide mechanisms for secure communication. USP employs HTTPS for secure communication between the USP platform and the devices, while MQTT supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption to protect data exchanged between the MQTT broker and the devices.

Benefits of USP Technology

USP enables service providers to create a seamless and personalized user experience by offering insights into the performance and status of connected devices. With this technology, customers can easily monitor and manage their network from a user-friendly interface, leading to reduced customer support calls and higher customer satisfaction.

USP empowers service providers with real-time data and analytics, enabling them to proactively identify network issues and optimize performance. Automated diagnostics and troubleshooting reduce downtime and service disruptions, resulting in better network reliability and enhanced Quality of Service (QoS).

One of the key strengths of USP is its ability to facilitate interoperability among diverse devices within a smart home ecosystem. It offers standardized methods for the discovery, management, and control of devices, eliminating the complexities associated with integrating devices from different manufacturers.

Gaining Momentum

USP’s deployment and adoption have been gaining momentum across the industry. Major service providers and device manufacturers have recognized the potential of USP to deliver exceptional user experiences and streamline network management. With the Broadband Forum’s active support and collaboration, USP is being integrated into a wide range of broadband products and services.

USP acts as the management platform that enables service providers to monitor and control various devices connected to the network. It provides a standardized and secure way to manage these devices through a unified interface. This interface abstracts the underlying communication protocols and device-specific details, allowing for easy integration with different types of devices, including those using MQTT.

Integrating USP technology with MQTT protocol offers several advantages for managing connected devices within a smart home environment. USP acts as a unified management platform, enabling service providers to easily monitor, control, and provision devices. At the same time, MQTT ensures efficient and lightweight communication between the devices and the management platform. The synergy between USP and MQTT enhances the overall user experience, simplifies device integration, and promotes the growth of smart home ecosystems by providing an effective and secure solution for managing IoT devices.

As more service providers and device manufacturers adopt USP, we can expect significant improvements in network performance, customer satisfaction, and overall efficiency.

Hemant Rawat
Hemant Rawat
A technology executive with broad experience in applying new technologies to the business environment. Currently focused on the adoption of 5G, Automation, Edge, Cloud & Containers.
A technology executive with broad experience in applying new technologies to the business environment. Currently focused on the adoption of 5G, Automation, Edge, Cloud & Containers.