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'Steering Wheel' for ultra-broadband network operation

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Thanks to the boom in network demand and the resulting services meant to accommodate it, operators are facing increased O&M burdens. Operators need to innovate and deliver their services in a timely and economic fashion so that users don't bolt for cable companies or smaller competitors. In light of this, time to market (TTM), quality of experience (QoE), and OPEX are now an operator's top-3 O&M priorities.

Huawei offers a simple and efficient solution for ultra-broadband O&M. Dubbed 'Steering Wheel,' this solution helps operators build establish, operate, transfer (EOT) capability based on product lifecycle, enhancing TTM/QoE while reducing OPEX. Steering Wheel has enabled Dutch carrier KPN to reduce its service TTM from 60 to 25 days, while cutting millions from its costs.

KPN: Efficient OTN integration, accelerated business growth

By Zhu Zhaohui

Royal Dutch Telecom (hereinafter referred to as KPN) is the leading telecommunications and ICT service provider in the Netherlands, offering wireline and wireless telephony, Internet and TV to consumers, while providing end-to-end telecom and ICT services to business customers. On December 31st, 2010, KPN served over 42.2 million customers from Spain to France, accounting for EUR13.4 billion in yearly revenue and an EBITDA of EUR5.5 billion.

Challenges to business development

In order to grow new business and reduce costs when delivering private lines and xWDM lines for internal customers, KPN wanted to change the existing business delivery process. KPN was looking to peel off some non-core activities and outsource them to equipment vendors or third-party services. The modified process needed to decrease costs (TCO), improve average delivery time (from over 60 days) and achieve a better first time right (FTR). The FTR between KPN's partner/subcontractor and Huawei was only 60%, meaning that 40% of the delivered lines required several visits before they could be considered finished. KPN analyzed the business delivery process and found inefficiencies to stem primarily from two aspects.

Lengthy process and lack of uniform quality control

KPN received business demands from customers, while the design department carried out demand analysis, created a business design and then submitted the design results to the manufacturer. The manufacturer generated detailed configuration lists based on business design results and submitted them to KPN for approval. After approval, KPN returned the list to the manufacturer for engineering design. When the engineering design was completed, the results were returned to KPN for approval once again. Once KPN approved, the manufacturers prepared the equipment and shipped it to the site; the equipment would then be constructed and installed by a number of service providers specified by KPN. When the installation was completed, the manufacturer would commission and deliver the data lines. Finally, after acceptance, KPN would inform the customer that the requested data lines were working successfully. The entire process involved back & forth between a minimum of four companies (including KPN), totaling at least 16 steps. The entire process was also very cumbersome and had a long cycle. There were no uniform quality evaluation criteria for the different companies, causing a low FTR for the various process handovers to the parties involved.

Lengthy design process

KPN's transmission network consists primarily of OTN equipment. With the rapid development of OTN and other leading technologies, the equipment features and network structure have become increasingly complex, making the business design of OTN-based networking very complex. Designs were sent back and forth several times, which led to the long delivery times for each project and customer dissatisfaction. KPN found the evaluation criteria for business design results, based on OTN, to be ineffective because there were no clear order criteria. When mismatches between customer demands and proposed designs were found during the final delivery, re-design and re-delivery additionally stretched the delivery cycle.

Streamlined delivery, improved processes

KPN considered the keys to business process improvement to be comprehensive protection of OTN design quality, streamlining of the overall operational process, and shortening of the delivery steps. The most appropriate method for going about this is to carry out a re-sorting of the business end-to-end delivery organization by experts who are very familiar with the characteristics and design principles of OTN equipment and who have uniform quality KPIs and monitoring processes. The organization begins from the receiving of customer business needs until the completion of the delivery of the data lines – end-to-end delivery with high quality and efficiency. In order to establish such an organization, KPN needed to improve the processes which would enhance KPN's operating costs and meet KPN's development strategy.

Streamlining end-to-end operational processes

This optimization of the original KPN process leads to its division into planning & design, deployment installation, and validation & acceptance – all the three stages of the process are executed by the same organization, as well as process quality management which reduces the number of handovers. Huawei is the leading OTN equipment provider in the global market and has rich experiences in OTN network construction and service provision, including a very good quality management system which enables the effective establishment and implementation of the process. The planning and design activities in the front of the process used to be completed by KPN; to ensure the design result quality, the proposed new process suggested that KPN use Huawei's OTN planning and design services.

Professional OTN design services

These services combine years of Huawei WDM/OTN network construction experience and Huawei's OTN equipment features, and are able to support a variety of scenarios for design activities. They can design based on OTN protection mechanisms and meet different business reliability requirements. So, it could help KPN build a network which meets the various needs of customer businesses.

These services can be combined with the existing network data and business design requirements, with end-to-end planning and design, in order to maximize the use of KPN network resources. They give detailed network configuration and delivery guidance throughout the planning process and greatly reduce the difficulties of subsequent delivery, eventually enhancing the FTR and the delivery efficiency.

The service delivery team has experience with optical and digital communication technology and a proficient background in OTN equipment. The team is experienced, as it has been involved in numerous large-scale OTN network projects. The experts in the team are able to identify whether the design result is reasonable and can guarantee the delivery quality of KPN projects.

Since Huawei's E2E OTN integration services solution is the most appropriate to solve the problems with service provisioning that KPN was facing at the time, KPN selected Huawei as its business partner and started improving its efficiency and quality.

The first step has been to streamline the process, including adjustment of the KPN organization. For KPN, the major change was to its design team. All business design activities are now delivered by using Huawei's OTN design services. Eight designers from KPN team have joined Huawei's design team. In the new process, a Huawei delivery service team deals with warehouse management, installation, commissioning & testing, business fulfillment, monitoring and project management processes.

The second step has been the implementation of Huawei's OTN design services. In the service implementation, the service delivery engineers introduce the professional planning tool as a design platform. Engineers get the existing network data from the NMS via the planning tool and generate the business matrix according to the external business requirements, which are then imported into the planning tool, thus ensuring well-prepared data before the design begins. When using the tools for the first step of design, the engineers add their own experience and manually optimize the design results in the tool. This step is very important, as the design results from the tool are more rigid and cannot fully meet the demands of OTN configuration flexibility and variety of combinations of design scenarios. By adding the expert experience, the rationality of the design result can be improved.

The last step is to correctly pass the front-end design results to the follow-up link by professional tools. After design is completed, the planning tool can generate detailed configuration data lists and engineering drawings. Through the configuration data lists, engineers can output quotation and invoice list and send the equipment and accessories to the site; the onsite engineers check the materials, depending on the configuration list, and install the devices in accordance with engineering drawings. After the installation is finished, engineers import the design results into the NMS and commissioning tools for commissioning and commercial launch. When the lines are delivered, engineers transfer them to KPN for management and operation.

The deep integration of the expertise of service delivery engineers and tools during the entire business process ensures a high quality of delivery and also enhances the delivery efficiency.

Significant effects

By implementing Huawei's services solutions, the efficiency and quality of service provision have been significantly enhanced. FTR has increased from 60% to 90%, while the average delivery time has decreased from more than 60 days to 25 days, which promotes KPN business development. Efficiency improvements help KPN to solve the inventory problems caused by the long lead delivery times. Reducing the scope of work on the KPN side optimizes KPN human resources input. Eventually, the new program has helped KPN to improve TCO and achieve considerable annual OPEX savings.

'Steering Wheel' keeps operation & maintenance on course

TTM, QoE and OPEX are three key metrics that must be optimal if operators are to compete in an ever more demanding landscape.

By Ren Xudong

Independent networks that deliver a modest number of services are going the way of the dinosaur. Fully-integrated, future-proof networks are in demand, as they are expected to reduce deployment and O&M costs and enable service expansion & terminal diversity. However, as network architecture converges, the importance of O&M grows, as a single failure will affect a greater percentage of ever more fickle users.

TTM, QoE and OPEX are three key metrics that must be optimal if operators are to compete in an ever more demanding landscape. To optimize them, Huawei has launched Steering Wheel, a solution that simplifies and enhances the O&M process for ultra-broadband architecture. With its established EOT capability, this solution can help operators keep these three metrics competitive throughout the entire network lifecycle.

Shortened TTM

Three obstacles hinder TTM in ultra-broadband scenarios. First, network planning and design requires experience and professionalism, both from engineers and their tools. Yet, network planning is still often done manually; this can take up seventy percent of an engineer's time. Second, operators are constantly pressured to deploy more base stations, which makes service and terminal launching ever more onerous. Third, new services often exceed the grasp of legacy infrastructure; O&M system upgrade can take almost a year to match a new service, which is a lifetime in today's competitive environment.

Huawei works with the TMF to promote the multi-technology operations system interface (MTOSI) standard, while its 300+ network planning experts have experience in every environment on the planet, giving it the knowledge and the means to provide OSS integration service to help shorten any operator's TTM.

Huawei Steering Wheel encompasses a large number of professional tools and services that accelerate and enhance the reliability of network planning. This solution helps operators generate scripts quickly and deploy equipment in a plug-and-play fashion, without the need for software commissioning. It also deploys independent fiber channel for data communication network (DCN). Steering Wheel enabled DTAC (Thailand) to deploy 800 sites in three weeks, a 400% increase in efficiency over the previous mark.

A key component of Steering Wheel is the U2000 NMS, which provides an open northbound interface that accommodates a variety of access methods.

Better QoS

Quality of service (QoS) often does not correlate with traditional KPIs, a fact that many operators have learned the hard way; this can be traced to three causes.

First, service rollout is often ad hoc and reactive. The operator mindset often is "Operator X has IPTV, so we'll have it too." However, no two networks are the same. Operator Y may need to make some major modifications to its infrastructure before it can compete with Operator X, but the patience needed for such a move often evaporates when margins are eroding.

Huawei statistics show that 70 percent of network errors are closely related to improper early-stage planning. Second, operators lack an E2E QoS assurance mechanism to ensure user experience. Though network quality may be good at each network layer, QoE degradation can still occur during transitions. Finally, service quality may relate to multiple departments; responsibility often becomes a hot potato when customer complaints arise.

Huawei has rolled out a number of solutions to address these three issues. It offers an assessment service that aides the evaluation of network readiness in three aspects. First, it assesses equipment functions and defines baselines. Second, it assesses the reliability and security of network architecture and defines performance baselines so that service growth targets are realistic. Finally, it assesses network capacity and gives suggestions if upgrade is needed.

This solution also helps collect data from various vendors' equipment and delivers analysis reports, while the Huawei AMS5080 software collects and presents topology information in a variety of fashions.

Based on TMF standards, Huawei has developed a service evaluation mechanism that combines KPI, KQI and QoE. With service quality defined by both Huawei and its partners, the mechanism can help visualize QoE, which reduces the troubleshooting time from hours to minutes.

Faults in legacy infrastructure often escape an operator's notice until complaints start rolling in, but with Huawei, faults can be located within minutes. Huawei also helps operators determine the layer in which a fault occurs (service or network). For a network error, operators can further trace the fault to the next layer (access, terminal, metro or other), which helps determine the department responsible.

Reduced OPEX

Operators are facing higher OPEX thanks to higher spare part and maintenance costs for legacy infrastructure, but network migration can take months or even years, and an IP network will require an operator to double its maintenance staff. FTTx involves many network elements, such as ODN, that do not intelligently report data to the network management system; to ensure stable network operation, effort must be expended to maintain them.

Power consumption is also becoming an ever greater expense, regardless of the architecture in place. Time is also wasted thanks to a scarcity of proper O&M skills and tools among engineers; a large number of invalid fault reports can result from this.

Huawei offers an E2E bearer network solution to solve these problems. It helps operators analyze and evaluate their networks, while providing fast & accurate network design through simulation tools that detect and eliminate potential problems. Its DSLAM chipsets and E2E energy-saving mechanisms also reduce energy consumption by twenty-five percent.

The U2000 NMS can suppress and combine alarms, helping operators focus on the critical ones. To reduce packet losses, Huawei routers have built-in network quality assurance (NQA) detection functionality, which performs real-time checking of packets transferred in layer 2 and layer 3. In addition, a snapshot function is provided to ensure normal operations on the control plane.

Other features include eID, an innovative technology that adds intelligent elements to ODN nodes; together with the ODN NMS and the iField assistant tool, operators can manage their ODN network flexibly. Fault detection has also been made easy, as the solution can smoothly interact with management systems for equipment, terminals, and optical line system (OLS) and ODN infrastructure, providing integrated fault diagnosis for network equipment, lines, terminals and resources.

Huawei's EOT service and Steering Wheel solutions are ready to help operators shorten their TTM, enhance QoE, and lower OPEX, giving them a competitive edge in ultra-broadband.

        

Fig. 1 Huawei Steering Wheel solution

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