Can improving your network monitoring actually increase your revenue? Telikom PNG thinks it can, and they're about to prove it.
Pius Ante & Maisen Windu of Telikom PNG
with the DPS Telecom Team
Telikom PNG, the national telecom company of Papua New Guinea, is building a new nationwide monitoring network that will join its existing legacy systems under the T/Mon. According to Telikom PNG executives, the real-time monitoring capability of the T/Mon will dramatically increase network uptime and create a healthy rise in company revenues.
"The biggest impact will be our maintenance costs. I estimate a savings of 30-40%," said Windu. "And also it will directly increase our revenue. As long as the network is down, we're losing revenue. The net impact will be that maintenance costs will go down and revenue will increase. I estimate that the gear will pay for itself within two years."
Telikom PNG understands that downtime costs. Every minute that your network is down, you're missing an opportunity to sell network services to your customers. Network monitoring, which keeps the network up and generating revenue, isn't a cost center, it's a profit center.
Windu illustrated this point with a story about a costly service outage. "One time there was a big problem with the main switching network, and we couldn't tell what was wrong. The rectifier powering the switch had failed in the early morning. If we'd known about it, we could have fixed it, no problem."
"But we don't have any way of monitoring in the evening after office hours," continued Windu. "We didn't know about the problem until the office opened that day. Tracking the problem took three hours. Our network was down for about 12 hours by the time it was fixed."
That downtime has an immediate impact on revenue. "From that site, we're talking about an average revenue of 2 million U.S. dollars a month," said Windu. Twelve hours of downtime for that site equals $33,000 to $35,000 of lost revenue. A monitoring system that can prevent outages like that will quickly pay for itself.
Understanding the direct connection between network uptime and revenue, Telikom PNG has made network reliability its top priority. But achieving service level targets in Papua New Guinea isn't easy. Telikom PNG faces the same kinds of challenges that North American telecoms do, but it faces more of them and the challenges are more intense.
To begin with, there's geography. Papua New Guinea, located east of Indonesia and north of Australia, is mostly mountains, and most of Telikom PNG's vital microwave repeater sites are on isolated mountaintops.
"These are major sites, connecting major cities," said Pius Ante, Telikom PNG's manager of transmission systems. "But there are no human beings anywhere around these places. The only way you can get there is by helicopter."
It's impractical for Telikom PNG to maintain its own helicopter fleet, so a helicopter must be rented for every site visit, added Ante. Because just getting to the sites is difficult and expensive, regular maintenance is scheduled only once a quarter.
The mountain sites have to be energy self-sufficient, since they are far away from any source of commercial power. "Most of our mountaintop sites are run by solar power," said Windu. "If solar power isn't available, they run off battery power. The batteries are charged by the solar panels and a backup diesel generator."
These sites operate effectively most of the time, but if there's a power failure it can result in severe service outages. "Power failures are a leading cause of failure," said Ante. "When the charging system works, the system just runs. But if the charger fails, then the site will eventually go down."
Managing these isolated mountaintop sites effectively clearly requires real-time network monitoring. Remote telemetry is the only way to know the actual present status of the site. It's the only way to anticipate problems before a vital failure. It's the only way to determine if repairs should be postponed until a regularly scheduled maintenance run or whether repairs are so urgently needed it justifies the expense of a special trip.
But until the T/Mon system is deployed, Telikom PNG doesn't have real-time monitoring capability. Currently, the company runs two separate network monitoring systems. Discrete alarms are monitored by a network of unsupported legacy NEC 21SV remotes, and ASCII alarms are sent to a console at Telikom PNG headquarters in Port Moresby.
The NEC master is nonfunctional, so there is no visibility of discrete alarms, and ASCII alarms have to be monitored and forwarded by human beings. There aren't personnel available to monitor the ASCII console at all times, so a worker has to periodically check for alarms and forward them by e-mail to maintenance supervisors.
"The problem with the current system is that there's no way to send alarms to the responsible people," said Ante.
"It's laborious and it's limited," said Windu. "We don't have any way of monitoring after hours." In many cases, Windu said, "The customer is the alarm system. When they have a problem, they call us and complain. They ask us "What's the problem?" and we have to say "We don't know what the problem is."
Increasing customer satisfaction is crucial to the present and future success of Telikom PNG. The company is currently a government-owned monopoly, but soon the company will be privatized and the telecom market of Papua New Guinea will be opened to free competition. In the short term, Telikom PNG has an obligation to serve the public; in the long term, the company needs to be competitive in the free market.