by July 1, 2010 0 comments



A In a hyper competitive environment, the need of the hour for Airtel was to
prioritize expansion of its mobile and broadband network roll outs in potential
tier — 1, 2&3 cities and clusters as well as in rural India. There was also a
need to connect its urban and rural networks to provide the same quality of
services to both types of subscribers. The challenge in doing such an expansion
lies in getting the correct demographics of all regions. That’s because in the
telecom sector, a well-planned network roll has to be in sync with market
demand. It helps gain better coverage, and results in faster turnaround time
while doing customer feasibility and acquisition, because decisions can be taken
faster by sales and marketing. And for a company like Airtel, which has more
than 1 lakh mobile sites serving its 137 million subscribers, and 1.18 lakh kms
of fiber laid across 100 cities and serving more than 3 million fixed line
subscribers across the country, the task of identifying further expansion is no
mean task. That’s where the concept of setting up a unified GIS network came up,
and since it impacted the entire operations of Airtel, across all divisions, it
brought immense benefits to the organization. It has all the ingredients we look
for in a winning project. There was immense business impact, a very large scale,
technical complexity, ingenuity, as well as social impact, and some element of
green IT. It scored high across all parameters, due to which our jury adjudged
it as the overall best IT project for 2010.

The Unified GIS System.
Airtel already had a network monitoring and management system to keep a tab of
its network, but this could not help identify potential areas for further
expansion and business growth. In order to make this happen, Airtel deployed a
unified GIS system, which is a single view not only to Airtel’s own network, but
to the entire landbase of India covering all six lakh villages, cities, major
highways and railroad networks. These are further integrated with Airtel’s own
OSS ecosystem to cater to daily business and operational needs.

Overall Best IT Project

Company Scenario
Before Deployment
  • Manual field surveys done for site analysis for
    network expansion.

  • Slow response to customer queries.

  • Manual tracking of network inventory.

 

What was deployed

 

A unified GIS that mapped India’s landbase,
Airtel’s network inventory for both wired and wireless businesses, and the
OSS processes and applications..
After Deployment  
  • One view of the entire country’s landbase, covering
    all 35 states and UTs, national highway and railroad networks, as well as
    terrain mapping.

  • One view of the entire network down to the last
    mobile tower with height, mounted antennae, their specs, range, etc.

  • Integration with business apps to draw out meaningful
    data for advanced provisioning, customer support, and network planning.

Implementation partners – IT Partner: IBM,
SIs: Infotech, Lepton
 

The benefits of having this kind of a view are quite understandable–with
lower ARPUs, gaining visibility into the network helps improve its utilization,
which in turn reduces costs, improves profitability, and ultimately gives a
better experience to the customers. It also helps plan future expansions better.

Landbase mapping
Airtel has done a pretty extensive landbase mapping of the country, using data
from both field surveys, satellite imagery, as well as other sources like the
public domain data from the Census Board of India. Essentially, it covers all 35
states and UTs of India, which is further broken down by districts, talukas,
towns, 6L+ villages, and 91,000 kms of highways and 65,000 kms of railways
tracks. All the major buildings, landmarks, establishments and major roads in
all the major cities are covered in this. Within each building also, every floor
and offices/flats on each are also covered. Not only that, but the different
types of terrains (mountains, lakes, water bodies, etc) are also covered in the
landbase mapping.

Ramamurthy Kolluri, VP Networks-OSS
Bharti Airtel

Q What according to you is the USP of the project?
The implementation is one of its kind which supports both wireless and
wireline inventory with a capacity of handling India’s largest telecom
network and can seamlessly add future technologies, realizing ‘Tomorrow’s
Network Today’.

Q What were the key business benefits gained after having deployed
this project?
Automation has brought down response time from days to a few minutes
that helps in faster resolution of customer queries. Tag on SMS feature
helped field teams to get latest resource availability thus significantly
reducing cancellation of customer orders. Real time Network Information on
PDAs of field engineers has brought down resolution time of customer
complaints. A 360-degree view of network of all lines of business helped in
initiating many synergy projects. The high precision right of way
information along with a country-wide road network data helped in reducing
the CAPEX involved in field survey. Pan India urban and rural spatial
information enriched with demographics helped in identification of clusters
for network expansion opportunity and retailer/distributor planning.

Network mapping
As we already explained earlier, all mobile sites and fixed line network
have been mapped on top of the landbase GIS. The level of detail that Airtel has
gone to is amazing. Every mobile tower along with its attributes such as height,
electronic equipment, number of antennas their power and direction have been
covered in this GIS map.

Integration with OSS and business apps
Airtel has integrated its landbase and network mapping with its internal
processes, and various business apps. This has automated a lot of processes,
thereby helping the company to do advanced analytics and trending, reducing
customer complaints by fault localization and alarm mapping, better feasibility
studies by integrating the physical inventory to the bandwidth information, and
even empowering the field force for better incident management.

How it empowers
As can be imagined, the possibilities of what one can do with such a system
are endless. The system is accessible through both a thick client as well as a
web browser. Everything is on the map, allowing the user to drill down into any
particular region in the country. This helps Airtel do feasibility studies,
advanced provisioning, coverage planning, etc. In a city for instance, they
could identify how far from a particular building is their fiber line, and
determine whether they can provide broadband access to its residents or not. In
tower planning, they can identify all the hurdles like mountains, water bodies,
etc well in advance, and then determine the tower height, type of antenna
required, etc. They can even see the coverage that would be provided by a
particular antenna well in advance.

Earlier when Airtel had to plan its network expansion or
lay out optical fiber in a specific area, they had to send a field engineer to
the site for capturing the information about the terrain manually. Then the
field report for the same was manually prepared and sent to the network planning
teams. This information was in disparate forms including map images,
consolidated documents and Excel sheets. This disparate information was then
converted to a meaningful format and entered into a CRM from where it was made
accessible. With this system, Airtel saves on the cost of conducting these field
surveys such as travel cost of field engineers, delays due to the manual report
preparation, etc.

A deep dive into specific buildings,
towers, and fiber network in Connaught Place, New Delhi with Unfied GIS
system

Airtel has also deployed an SMS based service for their
broadband field force, which helps them identify available network inventory.
This way, they go better prepared for resolving customer complaints. Plus, the
sales and marketing team can also identify unused broadband inventory, and
create opportunities to sell those.

The end result
As can be imagined, such a system impacts everyone in Airtel and its
customers. The response time to customer queries for instance, has reduced from
a few days to minutes. The SMS feature helps the field engineers determine
resource availability in advance, thereby reducing cancellation orders.

There are financial savings as well of course, which have
resulted from this 360-degree view of the network. It has reduced the capex
requirements for conducting field surveys, and helped elimination of duplication
in manpower cost.

Automated tools help determine the shortest path in network
planning, which saves a lot of time. There’s a social impact as well, because it
reduces space and power usage by doing site consolidation where required.
Automation of so many processes has also led to reduction in paper usage.

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