WO2001004766A1 - Method for coupling an internal appliance to one of a plurality of external networks - Google Patents

Method for coupling an internal appliance to one of a plurality of external networks Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2001004766A1
WO2001004766A1 PCT/US2000/018676 US0018676W WO0104766A1 WO 2001004766 A1 WO2001004766 A1 WO 2001004766A1 US 0018676 W US0018676 W US 0018676W WO 0104766 A1 WO0104766 A1 WO 0104766A1
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WO
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Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
network
subscriber
method
internal
plurality
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/018676
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
David C. Nagel
Charles Robert Kalmanek
Mark L. Dzuban
Cameron Gough
Norman Loren Schryer
Stuart Gannes
Glenn T. Edens
Original Assignee
At & T Corp.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H02GENERATION; CONVERSION OR DISTRIBUTION OF ELECTRIC POWER
    • H02JCIRCUIT ARRANGEMENTS OR SYSTEMS FOR SUPPLYING OR DISTRIBUTING ELECTRIC POWER; SYSTEMS FOR STORING ELECTRIC ENERGY
    • H02J3/00Circuit arrangements for ac mains or ac distribution networks
    • H02J3/38Arrangements for parallely feeding a single network by two or more generators, converters or transformers
    • H02J3/46Controlling of the sharing of output between the generators, converters, or transformers
    • H02J3/50Controlling the sharing of the out-of-phase component

Abstract

A method provides for selectively coupling a communication appliance (210) at a given premise that can be controlled externally to one or more of a plurality of external networks. A digital splitter (270) is provided at the subscriber premises and the splitter is coupled to various internal communication networks at the customer premises, such as a telephone network (240), a PC local area network (250) or a television transmission. The digital splitter also interfaces to a plurality of external networks, such as a local telephone service via a local exchange carrier (242), a cable system head end (217), a wireless communication system (234), an optical fiber network (218) or other information delivery systems. The controller on one of the external networks can also be remotely enable or disable various ones of the services to which the user subscribers and the digital splitter, in response to such controls, can either enable or disable the provisioning of the service to the appropriate communication appliance at the premise.

Description

Method for Coupling an Internal Appliance to One of a Plurality of External Networks

Cross-reference to Related Application

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/142,869, filed on July 8, 1999.

Field of the Invention The present invention is directed to a method for coupling a communication apparatus to one of a plurality of networks. More particularly, the present invention is directed to a method by which a communication apparatus at one location can be remotely controlled so as to selectively connect that apparatus to one of a plurality of networks.

Background of the Invention

As options for communication techniques continue to grow, it has become more and more common for a single location, such as a residence, to include many of communication devices. These devices typically connect to disparate networks which support the communication techniques employed by the devices. An example of such an arrangement is illustrated in the block diagram of FIG. 1. That diagram illustrates a residence, 100, for one or more subscribers to a plurality of different types of communication services. This illustration of a residence and this combination of communication services is merely selected for illustrative purposes and is not meant to be limiting as to any of the types of services or as to where the subscribers may be (that is, whether they are residential customers or business customers). In the illustrated example the residence has a plurality of communication appliances or devices such as television 110, personal computer 120 and telephone 130. These communication devices interface to a plurality of external networks. For example, television 110 can be coupled to a satellite arrangement 118 which includes direct broadcast satellites or wireless cable transmission systems, antenna 112 for receiving over-the-air television signals, and a cable head end 116 which is coupled to the television 110 via a cable interface 114 residing at the premises 100. The cable interface could be, for example, a set top box associated with the cable system in question. The personal computer 120 can be coupled to a telecommunications network such as the public switched telephone network (PSTN) via a local exchange carrier (LEC), 142 via a telephone interface unit 122 at the premises. In addition, the PC could be connected for example to a data network such as an Internet protocol (IP) network 150 by an Internet service provider (ISP) 152 coupled to the LEC 142. A telephone unit 130 could be coupled to the telephone interface unit 122 for a connection to the PSTN. Alternatively, the telephone may operate with a wireless unit, such as a fixed wireless system. In a fixed wireless system a fixed wireless receiver/transmitter combination 134 is provided at the premises and is coupled to a wireless interface 132. The fixed wireless transceiver 134 communicates via over-the-air transmissions with a base station assigned to the area in which the premises resides. The system is deemed to be a "fixed" wireless system in that the transceivers for over-the-air communication are not mobile. They are stationary and associated with a given premises.

As communication techniques continue to evolve there is a strong desire to integrate various appliances with different networks. For example, cable networks can be high bandwidth communication channels and lend themselves to data transmissions in addition to transmission of the video content. Similarly, it may be desirable to transmit certain information over-the-air as an alternative to transmitting data via a wireline communication. Another alternative would be to provide alternative telephony capabilities, such as plain old telephone services (POTS) or voice over the Internet (Internet Telephony). Thus, there is a desire to provide some integration between communication appliances at a particular premises and a plurality of external networks.

U.S. Patent No. 5,774,527 discloses one architecture for integrating telephone and cable communication networks. While this architecture provides some capability of tying together telephone and data communication capabilities over a plurality of networks, the patent does not describe at all how the control operations between one or more of the external networks and the premises appliances can be arranged to optimize the connections among the external networks. It would be desirable to provide an arrangement by which the control devices along external networks could have an impact on the selection operations for coupling premises appliances to the external networks.

Summary of the Invention The present invention provides an architecture by which a plurality of communication appliances at a given premises can be controlled externally to be selectively coupled to one or more of a plurality of external networks. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention a digital splitter is provided at the subscriber premises. That splitter is coupled to various internal communication networks at the customer premises, such as a telephone network, a PC local area network, or a television transmission network, etc. The digital splitter also interfaces to a plurality of external networks, such as a local telephone service via a local exchange carrier, a cable system head end, a wireless communication system, an optical fiber network or other information delivery systems. In accordance with one embodiment the digital splitter oversees control signals from at least one of the external networks to control the coupling operations performed by the splitter. In such a circumstance, an external network, such as a controller along the cable network, for example, at or associated with the cable head end, could transmit control signals to the digital splitter so as to selectively couple the internal telephone network to either the cable network or the local exchange carrier. Alternatively, a controller on one of the external networks could remotely enable or disable various ones of the services to which the user subscribes. The digital splitter, in response to such controls, can then either enable or disable the provisioning of the service to the appropriate communication appliance at the premise. The digital splitter can be provided as a basic digital splitter together with an enhanced digital splitter whereby the enhanced splitter includes a backplane that supports plug-in modules defining different system functions.

Brief Description of the Drawings FIG. 1 illustrates an example of communication appliances in a prior art environment.

FIG. 2 illustrates an example of a first embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates a more detailed example of an element of the embodiment of FIG.. 2. FIG. 4 provides a further detailed block diagram of a digital splitter in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 5 provides a block diagram of a controller to be applied to an external network in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

Detailed Description Overview

The present invention provides a method and apparatus that make it possible to integrate a plurality of communication appliances with a plurality of external networks. In particular, the present invention provides that the communication appliances residing at a given premises can be selectively coupled to various ones of the external networks via remote control signals transmitted to the premises from or by one of the external networks.

In one example, a subscriber at a premises may have a telephonic communication appliance such as a telephone. The person may be a subscriber to a local exchange carrier. In this circumstance, the premises has a wireline connection to the local exchange carrier so that the carrier can carry telephonic communication to and from the subscriber premises. It may also be desirable to use the same telephone communication appliance for purposes of conducting telephonic communications over a data network, e.g., voice over the Internet applications. In this circumstance, it would be beneficial if the telephone could be selectively coupled to a data carrier such as a high bandwidth facility like a cable facility. A digital splitter can be provided at the customer's premises so as to act as a controller for selectively coupling the subscriber telephone communication appliance to either one of the cable facility or the wireline connection to the local exchange carrier. In this manner it would be possible to provide local telephone service and/or long distance telephone service to a subscriber via the cable facilities while still maintaining a back-up connection to a local exchange carrier via a standard wireline connection to that carrier. The digital splitter which performs the selective coupling can be responsive to control signals transmitted via one of the external networks, for example, along the cable facilities so as to select as between the coupling for the communication appliances. This example is merely representative of one type of communication appliance which might be coupled to a plurality of external networks. Furthermore, the external networks described are only examples. Other external networks might be used to interface to the digital splitter of the present invention.

In accordance with the arrangement of the present invention, the digital splitter also provides the external network with the further capability of controlling the services that are provisioned to the communication appliances. For example, it is possible that the controller along an external network such as the cable system could not only control the coupling of the telephonic communication appliance between the various external networks, but it could also define the types of functionality to be provisioned to the telephonic communications appliance by sending control signals over the cable network to the digital splitter. Alternatively, the external network could control the types of services which may be accessed by any of the communications appliances, (e.g., the television, the PC, or telephone) via any of the external networks. In this circumstance an integrated service provider that is capable of providing, for example, cable video programming, data communication links and telephonic communications capabilities to a single subscriber can control the operation of the digital splitter so as to permit access to individual ones of the integrated services for which the person at the premises has properly subscribed. Thus, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, a remote control arrangement is provided for facilitating the selection of connection between communication appliances at a given premises and a plurality of networks external to that premises.

Description of FIGS. 2 to 5

FIG. 2 illustrates, in block diagram form, an arrangement for implementing the present invention. In this arrangement there are a plurality of communication appliances such as televisions 210, personal computers 220 and telephones 230. Each of these types of appliances can be coupled to a digital splitter 270 via a respective distribution network, e.g., 2101, 2201 or 2301. The digital splitter is also coupled to a plurality of external networks. For example, the digital splitter can be coupled to the local exchange carrier 242 of PSTN 240. In turn, the digital splitter can be coupled to IP network 250 via ISP 255 which is in turn coupled to the LEC 242. The digital splitter 270 can also be coupled to a cable head end 217 which is capable of providing video programming as well as data and other communication services over high bandwidth cable 2171. The digital splitter might also be connected to other communication networks, such as an over-the-air television network via antenna 212, a direct satellite transmission via satellite system 218 or a wireless communications network such as that represented by fixed wireless system 234. It should be noted that the present invention is not limited to these particular internal networks or external networks, nor is it limited to this particular combination of internal or external networks. Finally, it should also be recognized that alternative wireless networks could be supported in substitute for or in addition to the fixed wireless capability referred to in FIG. 2.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention the digital splitter operates to selectively couple appliances to a selected external network. For example, the telephonic appliances 230 may have the capability of communicating via either PSTN 240 or via telephonic capabilities provided over cable 2171. The digital splitter, 270, in response to control signals from one of the external networks, for example from the cable network provider, possibly from a controller at cable head end 217, selects which external network the telephones 230 should be connected or connectable to any given time. Thus, if the subscriber at premises 200 can conduct voice transmissions and communications via the cable network 2171 and cable head end 217 it is possible that the digital splitter will be instructed to have a default connection of the telephones to the cable system rather than the PSTN via a normal wireline connection. Then, should the cable head end detect the occurrence of some condition which would warrant changing that default state, the cable head end could transmit a control signal to the digital splitter 270 so as to change the selection and permit communications between the PSTN and the telephone appliances 230 on the premises 200. Similarly, the digital splitter could control the connection of any one of the PCs 220 to data communications transmission equipment such as along the cable infrastructure or via the PSTN. In addition, the cable head end, an example of which is shown in more detail in FIG. 5, can include control capabilities to select which services the subscriber at the premises 200 is entitled to receive. For example, it is possible that the operator of cable head end can provide a plurality of services to the same subscriber. These services could all be supplied via the cable network 2171, or alternatively could be provided via a plurality of the external networks, such as providing video programming and voice over IP via the cable infrastructure, wireless communications via a wireless network associated with fixed wireless device 234 and ISP access via ISP 255. It is possible then that the control device at, for example, the cable head end could generate control signals transmitted to the digital splitter via the cable infrastructure which would define the services enabled for a given subscriber. If the subscriber service status changes, that is, perhaps the subscriber becomes delinquent in its subscription payments with respect to a given service, or a subscriber decides to add a service previously not subscribed to, the cable head end could provide a control signal to the digital splitter to either disable or enable access to the given service. This would be done under control of CPU 5171 and the control and data communication capabilities of 5177 in the cable head end device 517 illustrated in FIG. 5. This device may further include information related to telephone communications 5173 for example and/or video programming such as CATV and/or special programming available for subscriber televisions 5175.

In summary then a control node associated with one of the external networks can interact with a digital splitter residing at the subscriber premises so as to control the provisioning of services over a plurality of external networks as well as simply controlling access to one or more of those external networks by a communication appliance at the premises. While this control node is described as being at the cable head end, it could be located along the cable network, for example, at a network operations center (NOC). Alternatively, the control node could reside along one of the other external networks with control signals being forwarded along the medium that supports that network (i.e., a wireless network).

FIG. 3 illustrates a slightly modified splitter arrangement. In particular, the splitter is now shown as comprising at least two portions: a basic digital splitter 371 and a backplane 372 with a plurality of functional modules 373 to 376. A basic digital splitter 371 receives inputs, for example, from the cable infrastructure and can be coupled to RJ 11 JACKS 380 which are coupled to the wireline connections to the LEC. The basic digital splitter 371 can then control whether the telephone 330 along an internal telephone network are coupled directly to the LEC lines or communicate via the basic digital splitter with one of the external networks, such as the high bandwidth cable network using control signals transmitted to RJ11 over control line 381. Furthermore, a phone line 391 carries telephone network information between the digital splitter 371 and a backplane 372 for the plug-in modules. The basic digital splitter also may receive other inputs such as those shown in FIG. 2 and may distribute communications information such as to the televisions and set top boxes (STB) in an internal television distribution network on the premises. Also, the basic digital splitter may send digital signals along 392 to the backplane 372 for use by one or more of the functional modules 373 to 376. For example, these plug-in modules may be provided to enhance the functionality of the splitter. The modules may be supplied directly by the installer of the splitter system. Alternatively, as new functionalities are developed the modules themselves might be obtained from some retail source and the modules themselves could be installed on the backplane thereby enhancing the overall splitter system capabilities. The modules shown are only for representation purposes and are not meant to limit the possibilities with respect to the operations of the splitter device. Among the choices for submodules may be a module that implements control of a personal computer local area network, 376, one that controls the offering of PBX-like functionality to the internal telephone network such as module 375, a power/battery control unit such as module 374 and a cable modem and cable telephone packet interface and cordless interface such as the BTI-DOCSIS module 373. The high speed backplane allows data communication between the basic digital splitter, 371 and any one or more of the functionality modules whereby the functionality available to a given subscriber may be enhanced depending on the presence of a given module. This arrangement permits control signals received along the cable infrastructure, such as control signals generated and transmitted by a cable head end, to have some impact on the operation of the digital splitter modules whereby certain functionality defined by those modules may be either enabled or disabled in accordance with the premises user's subscriber status.

The control signals generated by the control node can be as the result of activity undertaken by the subscriber. For example, a subscriber, either on the premises or off premises, could contact the network service provider via a communication along one of the external networks, such as along the telephone network or via a data communication connection. In that contact the subscriber could subscribe to a new service or change subscriptions which would call for the digital splitter to activate or deactivate couplings between the internal networks and the external networks. As an example, a subscriber could log-on to a web site of a service provider and execute a subscription operation, stepping through a graphical interface presented to the subscriber by the site. The subscriber can select one or more service options such as by simply checking on an icon or a hyperlink presented by the site. In response to that selection the service provider can then determine whether the subscriber is eligible for such a service option and can generate the necessary control signals to effect the operation of the digital splitter as described above to provide that service option if appropriate. Thus, the arrangement allows both the subscriber and the service provider varying degrees of control over how the premises' internal networks are coupled to external networks and/or service modules so as to allow service variations over time.

FIG. 4 provides another block diagram with respect to an embodiment of the digital splitter device. The splitter includes a plurality of interfaces to external communication networks, for example, cable interface 417, satellite interface 418, LEC interface 440 and fixed wireless interface 444. Similarly, there are interfaces to internal networks, for example, television interface 410, PC LAN interface 420 and telephone network interface 430. All of the interfaces can operate either under the control of or in conjunction with CPU 490 as it executes instructions stored in memory 495. Thus, in this arrangement the CPU under control of programs stored in memory 495, along with control signals provided via one of the external networks, such as the cable infrastructure, can operate to select how the various internal and external networks shall be coupled or uncoupled with respect to one another. Furthermore, the arrangement provides that the functionality or services afforded to a given subscriber at a particular premise can also be under the control of the CPU, the memory and preferences set forth by a controller coupled to one of the external networks. Furthermore, since the CPU and memory can be coupled to a header controller via one of the external networks, these control devices (the modules) on the premises can receive information which will expand the services which will be available to the subscriber at the premises. It should be noted that the power/battery module illustrated in FIG. 3 is indicative of the fact that the digital splitter may have multiple power sources, such as power from a utility that services the customer's location and a back-up power supply. The back-up power may be supplied by a power cable or from a local battery. Under normal circumstances the digital splitter may be powered using utility-supplied power. During a power failure the splitter can automatically switch to back-up power. If desired, the capabilities of the digital splitter could also be reduced to match the fact that the splitter is no longer being powered by its primary power source, but rather by its back-up power source. This could be done to preserve operational capabilities for an extended period of time. In view of the above architecture it is possible for an external controller to originate a process for selecting how an internal network or communication appliance may be coupled as between one or more external networks. Furthermore, the arrangement allows the external controller to provision services to a subscriber on an individual by individual basis using the same basic communication infrastructure.

Claims

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. A method for coupling an internal appliance to one of a plurality of external networks, the method comprising: coupling a subscriber interface unit to an internal network that services the internal appliance; coupling the subscriber interface unit to a first external network; coupling the subscriber interface unit to a second external network; receiving at the subscriber interface unit, from said first external network, a control signal; selectively coupling the internal network to either said first external network or said second external network via said subscriber unit in response to said control signal.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein said internal appliance comprises a telephone, said first external network comprises a data network and said second external network comprises a telephone network.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein said subscriber interface unit is coupled to two power sources, a primary power source and a secondary power source where said subscriber interface is powered by said primary power source in the absence of a power interruption and is powered by said secondary power source when said primary power source is interrupted.
4. A method for providing multiple services to a subscriber via a plurality of networks, the method comprising: coupling a subscriber interface unit to a plurality of internal networks at the subscriber's location; coupling the subscriber interface unit to a first external network; coupling the subscriber interface unit to a second external network; receiving at the subscriber interface unit, from the first external network, a control signal; selectively connecting a first internal network to one of a plurality of service modules associated with said subscriber interface unit in response to said control signal.
5. The method of claim 4 further comprising: receiving a second control signal authorizing connection between a second one of said internal networks and a second one of said plurality of service modules.
6. The method of claim 4 wherein said first internal network includes a telephone network and said one of said plurality of service modules comprises a packet telephony module.
7. The method of claim 6 further comprising: receiving a second control signal authorizing connection between a second one of said internal networks and a second one of said plurality of service modules.
8. The method of claim 7 wherein said second one of said internal networks comprises an internal cable television network and said second one of said plurality of service modules comprises a cable television service module.
9. A method for selectively coupling a plurality of internal networks to a plurality of external networks, the method comprising: coupling a plurality of internal networks to a subscriber interface unit; coupling a plurality of external networks to said subscriber interface unit; maintaining service authorization information in a memory in said subscriber unit; and receiving a control signal from a first external network; updating said memory in response to said control signal, wherein the update of the memory changes a connection authorization status relating to one of said internal networks.
10. A method for controlling network connectivity at a subscriber's premises, the method comprising: receiving a service subscription request from a subscriber along a first external network; generating a control signal to effect a desired connectivity between an external network and a network internal to the subscriber's premises to enable the requested service; and transmitting the control signal to a digital splitter at the subscriber's premises.
11. The method of claim 10 wherein said step of transmitting includes sending the control signal to the subscriber's premises via the first external network.
12. The method of claim 11 wherein said first external network comprises a data network.
13. The method of claim 10 wherein said control signal commands the digital splitter to connect an internal telephone network at the subscriber's premises to an external network different from an external network to which it was connected prior to receiving the control signal.
14. The method of claim 10 wherein said first external network comprises a data network and said control signal causes the digital splitter to couple an internal telephone network at the subscriber's premises, to said data network.
15. The method of claim 14 wherein said step of transmitting includes sending the control signal to the subscriber's premises via the first external network.
16. A method for controlling service access at a subscriber's premises that includes a plurality of internal networks coupled to a control device, the method comprising: receiving a service request from a subscriber; determining whether the subscriber is permitted to receive the requested service; and sending an access control signal to the digital splitter at the subscriber's location, wherein the access control signal commands the digital splitter to provide network connectivity necessary to support the requested service.
17. The method of claim 16 wherein the service request is received from a wide area network.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein the service request relates to telephony service.
19. The method of claim 18 wherein the access control signal commands the digital splitter to couple a subscriber's internal telephone network to an external data network.
PCT/US2000/018676 1999-07-08 2000-07-10 Method for coupling an internal appliance to one of a plurality of external networks WO2001004766A1 (en)

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US14286999 true 1999-07-08 1999-07-08
US60/142,869 1999-07-08

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