Customer-premises equipment or customer-provided equipment (CPE) is any terminal and associated equipment located at a subscriber's premises and connected with a carrier's telecommunication channel(s) at the demarcation point ("demarc"). The demarc is a point established in a building or complex to separate customer equipment from telephone company equipment.
CPE generally refers to customer owned telephones, routers, switches, RGs or purchased set-top boxes for use with Communications Service Providers' services. Also included are key telephone systems and most private branch exchanges. Excluded from CPE are overvoltage protection equipment and pay telephones.
The two phrases, "customer-premises equipment" and "customer-provided equipment", reflect the history of this equipment.
Under the Bell System monopoly in the United States (post Communications Act of 1934), the Bell System owned the phones, and one could not attach one's own devices to the network, or even attach anything to the phones (a popular saying was "Ma Bell has you by the calls"). Thus phones were property of the Bell System, located on customers' premises – hence, customer-premises equipment. In the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding the Second Computer Inquiry, the FCC ruled that telecommunications carriers could no longer bundle CPE with telecommunications service, uncoupling the market power of the telecommunications service monopoly from the CPE market, and creating a competitive CPE market.
With the gradual breakup of the Bell monopoly, starting with Hush-A-Phone v. United States , which allowed some non-Bell owned equipment to be connected to the network (a process called interconnection), equipment on customers' premises became increasingly owned by customers, not the telco. Indeed, one eventually became able to purchase one's own phone – hence, customer-provided equipment.
A subscriber unit, or SU is a broadband radio that is installed at a business or residential location to connect to an access point to send/receive high speed data wired or wirelessly. Devices commonly referred to as a subscriber unit include cable modems, and mobile phones.
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