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Aircel renovates its core network for mobile broadband boom

Aircel renovates its core network for mobile broadband boom

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The hyper-competitive Indian mobile market is undergoing a boom in mobile data services. To ride on this boom, Aircel would have to invest in a core infrastructure that could intelligently handle the growth in data traffic. It chose the Huawei Packet-Switched (PS) solution, which allowed them to add capacity and throughput on a significantly smaller footprint than their existing SGSN and GGSN nodes. The solution also meant that Aircel was investing in infrastructure that has the flexibility to evolve from supporting the current 2G/3G network to future HSPA/LTE networks.

A pan-Indian operator in the making

With over 40 million subscribers, Aircel is India' s fifth largest GSM operator, providing services in 21 of the 23 telecom circles. It also holds a license to operate in the remaining two, preparing it to become a pan-Indian operator in 2010.

Aircel has won many awards for its services, including three World Brand Congress 2009 awards for Brand Leadership in Telecom, Marketing Campaign and Marketing Professional of the Year. Aircel was also honored by CMAI INFOCOM National Telecom Award 2009 for "Excellence in Marketing of New Telecom Service". It was selected as the best regional operator in 2008 by Tele.net and was rated as the top mid-size utility company in Business World' s "List of Best Mid-Size Companies" in 2007. It also got the highest rating for overall customer satisfaction and network quality in 2006 by Voice and Data.

Turning challenges into opportunities

Amidst falling revenue per user from voice services and intense competition in all its telecom circles, Aircel was seeing an explosion of data usage amongst its subscribers since the inception of its EDGE network in 2008. Its existing packet switching infrastructure was rapidly reaching the limits with respect to throughput and capacity. Indiscriminate use of bandwidth by applications such as P2P, video streaming and VoIP was further compounding the problem by degrading the quality of service for all subscribers.

The challenge was to turn the situation into an opportunity rather than a problem by, say, implementing a solution that would help capitalize on the explosion of mobile data usage – one that would have the capacity and the longevity to meet the increasing demand for data services and one that would help Aircel transform itself from a voice-only service provider to a mobile multimedia operator.

Enhanced core network

Aircel evaluated solutions from numerous vendors. In terms of service capacity, footprint, service intelligence, and flexibility to adapt to network evolution, Aircel found that Huawei' s Unified GGSN and SGSN product was the one that fit the bill.

Huawei' s packet-switched solutions were deployed at two locations – Delhi and Chennai – to serve a total of nine new telecom circles. Data from the existing four SGSN and two GGSN nodes were migrated to just either of Huawei Unified SGSN and GGSN nodes. Even with the reduced footprint, Aircel' s overall packet handling capacity and throughput increased significantly.

The Unified SGSN and GGSN solution also provided Aircel the flexibility to support the current 2G/3G network while ensuring a relatively seamless evolution to future HSPA/LTE networks through software upgrades.

The installed solution also delivers powerful content filtering and service control capabilities that give Aircel the ability to manage their network resources more efficiently. In essence, applications that are detrimental to the performance of the network and that negatively impact Aircel' s service revenues can now be more intelligently managed.

Reaping the benefits

Since the deployment of the Huawei PS solution, Aircel has expanded into nine new circles and has achieved tremendous growth in terms of data subscribers and mobile data traffic.

Mr. Mallikarjuna Rao, Group CTO for Aircel Ltd commended, "Huawei' s cutting-edge Packet-Switched solution enabled Aircel to achieve fivefold growth in data subscribers and a twenty-fold increase in mobile data traffic within 1 year. This is a unique record."

In addition to handling this dramatic increase in subscribers and service traffic, the Huawei solution has allowed Aircel to curtail certain services such as VoIP that were adversely affecting their service revenue.

It is a near certainty that the mobile broadband boom will continue for the foreseeable future and that Aircel will have to evolve other parts of its network to meet future demands. Specifically, its current 2G/3G radio access network will need to be upgraded to newer technologies such as HSPA and LTE. In this scenario, Aircel can rest assured that their investment in the Huawei PS solution will be able to evolve along with the rest of the network with respect to both capacity and standards.

"The Huawei Packet-Switched solution also provided Aircel the flexibility to support 2G and 3G networks ensuring a relatively seamless evolution as and when 3G comes," added Mr. Rao.

And at a time where the operational overhead and environmental impact of managing an ever-expanding pool of network elements become a key concern, the reduced footprint of the Huawei solution will be invaluable to Aircel.

Mr. Ravneet Mehra, who heads the product portfolio of Packet Core and VAS, observed, "The Huawei PS solution not only enabled Aircel with a reduced footprint but also helped increase the overall packet handling capacity and throughput significantly."

The explosion of mobile data usage and hunger for the associated new multimedia services can be a nice problem to have for mobile operators, but only if they have wisely invested in a network infrastructure that can capitalize on such tremendous growth. Aircel looked at numerous solutions with the right set of evaluation criteria and settled on Huawei' s PS solution as the one meeting and exceeding the requirements sought. The decision has already borne fruit, with Aircel capturing new markets, subscribers and service revenues. Huawei is proud to have been chosen for this important endeavor and succeeded in its implementation.

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