Current consistent connected
Network data that is inaccurate, incomplete or inaccessible can have a negative impact on multiple areas of a network operator’s business It can affect everything from field work to customer provisioning and service assurance. The problem is compounded when the use of multiple systems requires manual data syncing.
R turned to Ericsson to help manage its growing network via a unified lifecycle process and a single automated network design and inventory system.
Multiple systems bring multiple problems
Prior to 2008, R used completely different systems to handle two connected business functions: network plan/design/build and ongoing operations that use network information. Within the multi-system approach there were deficiencies in the process and inadequate coordination between tools. This meant network data was difficult to locate and when found, was of poor quality. R had been using a homegrown CAD-based application as its outside plant network design tool. Each new design was stored as a new file and there were no automated features to help staff keep track of the various versions, or keep the network data up to date.
"We have more than 3,000 nodes in the network. With several versions per node, there were more than 8,000 files," says Enrique Zarra, Telecommunications Engineer, R. "It was very easy to confuse which file was most current."
Once a network project was completed, R engineers had to manually feed the information from the CAD system into their provisioning system. This information is needed to identify available network inventory for service delivery, but synchronization proved difficult, time consuming and error-prone.
One solution, one system
To overcome the challenges, R began a physical network inventory initiative in 2007 with the support of Eptisa, the international engineering, architecture and information technologies firm.
"We wanted a solution that could serve our needs over the next 10 or 15 years, giving us a solid foundation for the future as our network grows and evolves," says Enrique Zarra.
Today R uses only one system, Ericsson Network Engineer, to support the entire lifecycle of the network. R identified four independent information blocks: the fiber optic, coaxial and copper networks and the supporting structures. Each block was modeled and documented before becoming part of the geospatial inventory network database. For the coaxial project, Eptisa developed a custom tool to help engineers ensure the radio frequency signal strength and maintain R’s service quality standards.
Operational performance has since improved significantly. For example, pinpointing the problem behind a service disruption now takes hours instead of days.
Updating and evolving
Automatic inventory updates are implicit in the network design and deployment flow. "There is no need to transfer completed build information into a permanent records system. As network changes occur, current information automatically becomes available to everyone," says Laurie Spiegel, Product Marketing Director, Ericsson.
Engineers, construction contractors and maintenance personnel can access the same accurate and consistent data in the central geospatial database. "Ericsson Network Engineer is a key system in our company. We now have one solution for all departments that need to know about the inventory and the best way to deploy these resources," says Enrique Zarra.
All data reflects planned, pending and final changes to the network, and workflow capabilities automate processes to increase productivity. "Everyone has information they can trust. They can consult the system and know that the information they see is the latest and that it is correct," says Esther Lopez, Account Manager for R at Eptisa.
The set of open APIs was a key reason behind R’s selection of Ericsson Network Engineer. The APIs are used to integrate custom projects with the Ericsson solution. For example, Eptisa has used the APIs to integrate Ericsson Network Engineer to R’s provisioning system for copper plant. The APIs have been fundamental to those types of projects at the company.
"R plans to aggressively deploy Fiber-To-The-Home, which will be our main area of growth in the coming years," Enrique Zarra points out. "With Ericsson Network Engineer, we can support these complex market-driven kinds of deployments."