What’s Next, and What Needs to Endure

By Scott Imhoff   July 20, 2020

So much conversation in the telecommunications and networking industries is about new technologies and new products. Still, we all know that customer experience during a product end of life is as important, if not more important than when the product launched. Product managers inherently focus on “what is next,” the next evolution in technology, packaging, performance, adoption of emerging standards, styling, and more. If not, they are not likely tuned in to the spoken and unspoken needs of their customers. Great product managers take time to listen and fully understand the complete needs of their customers, while their product roadmap demonstrates opportunities and inspires customers to move forward.  Too often, the last thing a product manager wants to talk about is the “end of life” of a product, and it is frequently relegated to the last bullet point on the annual list of objectives. What fun is killing a product after all? The end of a product’s life should never mean the end of the customer relationship. In technology, effectively managing a product’s end of life is crucial and directly contributes to a long-term, trusted relationship with a firm’s partners and customers.

Even successful products eventually come to their end of life. They are driven there by evolution in technology, standards, performance expectations, or the end of life of an underlying component that the product depends on. Unfortunately, the end of life of successful products is the most challenging to manage and has the most significant impact as they are the most widely adopted by customers, who have come to rely on them. Typical concerns that a customer will have with an end of life notice, and which should be taken into consideration by the product manager before announcing the end of life, include:

  • How long will a product be supported after the end of life? 
  • How long will I have to purchase the end of life product before it is no longer available? 
  • Is there an alternate solution available? 
  • Will my existing products integrate with the next generation?   
  • The end-of-life product is a sub-system of a more extensive solution. How long will I have to test and verify that the alternate solution works within the larger system?

Cambium Networks provides wireless networking infrastructure to network operators in the service provider, industrial, enterprise, and defense markets. Answers to these questions are crucial to their ongoing success, and they expect us to have those answers before they are asked. As a best practice, we publicly publish our End-of-Life Policy so that our partners and customers know what they can expect from us. 

Our commitment includes not less than 180-days’ notice when no viable alternative exists and not less than 90 days in all cases. In select cases, we have provided as much as 18-months’ notice when we know the end of life may have a significant impact. Ideally, this notice allows partners and customers to effectively plan for the transition. Recognizing that customers have made a significant capital investment in our products and expect long-term use, we commit to providing no less than four years of technical support and, of course, honor both standard extended warranty periods. These commitments are intended to provide adequate time for customers to plan how they will accommodate the end of life and provide confidence that Cambium Networks will stand behind the investment they have made.

The nature of networking and, in particular, wireless networking is the evolution of system-level solutions. You see that in the transitions from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6, and 4G LTE to 5G, or in our very explicit case, ePMP 1000 and 2000 to ePMP 3000. For network operators, making significant investments in building networks, and upgrading those networks can be capital intensive, require extensive time to execute and prospectively be disruptive to their end customers. To mitigate that impact, Cambium Networks endeavors to support both forward and backward compatibility of new products with legacy products. Good examples of this are: the ability of the software-defined Wi-Fi 6 access points (AP) to operate effectively as a Wi-Fi 5 recognizing the near-term predominance of Wi-Fi 5 clients and the ability of the ePMP 3000 to support ePMP Force 180, 200 and 300 subscriber modules. Our cnMaestro cloud-based management system provides the ability to monitor and manage multiple generations of multiple fixed wireless and Wi-Fi systems with an end-to-end view of the entire network via a single pane of glass. Developing and testing compatibility takes time and effort on our part, but this investment is required to support the solution requirements of network operators.

Managing the end of life of a successful product is not as energizing as planning, developing and launching next-generation technology, but it can either make or break a company’s relationship with the customer. Do it poorly, and you impose a significant risk to and expense on your customer… and they will remember that when they consider their next strategic investment. Do it well, and you contribute to a long-term trusting relationship that pays dividends for all parties.