RT Communications Protects Reliability And Prepares For Network Consolidation With DPS Monitoring Equipment And Integrated Building Access Control

Matt Jordan
Matt Jordan
CO Technician
RT Communications

RT Communications serves approximately 15,300 subscribers in Wyoming, as well as small regions of Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

RT, along with its parent and sister companies, has placed over 800 miles of optical fiber cable in the State of Wyoming - touting the largest fiber transport network in the state. In addition to the transport fiber, RT has added fiber-to-the-home in many of its service areas - leading the way for future services.

The company offers local telephone service, long distance service, local access, CENTREX, voice mail data network services, switch 56, E-911, custom calling features, CLASS services, interconnection services, conferencing services, high-speed internet access, web site hosting, and business telephone systems.

Matt Jordan is a Central Office Technician at RT Communications, and he has a variety of duties. "I am part of the team that takes care of everything in the CO - from equipment installs to software updates to cutover upgrades, recordkeeping, new installs, and everyday work," he said.

Equipment from an older vendor just didn't do the job

During his time at RT, Jordan has had experience with older alarm monitoring equipment from [one vendor] and modern equipment from DPS Telecom.

"[The other vendor's] functionality was very limited to opens and shorts - and we had to pay another vendor to monitor it when no one was at our office."

Transitioning away from [the other vendor] will allow RT to monitor much more than simple contact closures and to bring their monitoring in-house. "The change to DPS has absolutely been positive. [The other vendor's] functionality was very limited to opens and shorts - and we had to pay another vendor to monitor it when no one was at our office," Jordan said. "They would call us when it went into alarm, but with that alone you're relying on someone else. It's a point of failure that isn't inside your company or within your control. Bringing it more in-house has been positive."

Upgrading to a modern master prevents a "potentially huge" problem

RT has deployed a T/Mon NOC alarm master, and it has already helped them to detect and stop a potentially big problem before it became a service effecting problem. "Our main transport is Fujitsu SONET gear, and we have that hooked up to T/Mon for alarming," Jordan said.

"T/Mon let the other two of us who don't work with that equipment everyday know that there was a problem - a potentially huge problem that could isolate entire exchanges."

"We had a technician who went on vacation for a few weeks. While he was gone, 'error rate' alarms started coming in and we got them through T/Mon," he recalled. "T/Mon let the other two of us who don't work in that equipment everyday know that there was a problem - a potentially huge problem that could isolate entire exchanges. A service failure could have happened if we didn't know about the alarm and start troubleshooting."

Complete switch monitoring delivers a hidden benefit

With his T/Mon NOC alarm master, Jordan has been able to monitor ASCII alarm data without a lot of detailed programming. "T/Mon is helpful in the way that it talks to my switch via ASCII with a very limited set of rules," he said. "It was pretty painless to set up."

RT Communications has also found that effective switch monitoring delivers another key benefit. "Everything that is hooked to my switch gets brought out to T/Mon. Once you have your basic rules set up, everything that comes out is in the same format," said Jordan. "Most of my alarms come out that way, and that's fewer pieces of equipment that I have to hook up independently. Also, the T/Mon database is something that I can back up."

Advanced RTUs monitor more than simple discrete points and don't require extensive training

Because they also deployed a fleet of NetGuardian RTUs, RT Communications has been able to monitor much more than simple contact closures. "The NetGuardian units are interfaced with all our equipment, and we're using paging and email notifications," said Jordan.

"The more areas I go to, the more I'm going to use it, because it works so well."

RT also uses the NetGuardian's integrated terminal server to remotely access serial equipment at many of its sites. Jordan simply dials into the NetGuardian via modem and reaches through one of its serial ports to a connected device. "I use that all the time - all the time," he said. "The more areas I go to, the more I'm going to use it, because it works so well."

As much as they're capable of, access to the NetGuardians doesn't require any special training. "With the Web Interface, I can have my technicians access and look at alarms," Jordan said. "Even though they haven't been trained on NetGuardians or T/Mon, they can get on web pages, see the alarms, and notify anybody that needs to be notified."

RT adds building access - without adding new transport

With a T/Mon NOC master and NetGuardian remotes already in its network, RT leveraged its existing investment and deployed a Building Access System.

"The Building Access System works well because it's compatible with our existing key fobs."

With a small incremental addition to his monitoring system, Jordan now electronically controls access to geodiverse sites with proximity card readers and keypads. "The Building Access System works well because it's compatible with our existing key fobs," he said. "All employees already have them."

RT will also be relying on the Building Access System to support its upcoming business consolidation. "Five companies are going to essentially become one," Jordan said. "People aren't going to have all the keys they need. We're going to need the ability to add new keys easily or remotely 'buzz' people into doors from the central office."

Effective training transforms "intimidating" into "confident"

For Matt Jordan, inheriting a monitoring system when he moved into the CO at RT Communications was a challenge. "Coming in to work on monitoring gear after it was already installed was really intimidating. It's not my background," Jordan said. "ASCII, SNMP, and internetwork alarming are things I'm just getting into."

"I feel confident to go back and take ownership in the monitoring of our DPS gear."

To boost his confidence, Jordan received DPS training in two ways. First, he had veteran DPS installer Chris Hower travel to Wyoming for on-site training with individualized attention. "Having Chris come out after I had already worked with the system for a while was great," Jordan said. "I had good questions and I learned a lot."

Later, he attended a regularly scheduled DPS Factory Training Event at DPS Telecom Headquarters in Fresno, California. "Coming out for the whole training has really improved my confidence. The teachers have been great. DPS has really taken care of me," Jordan said. "I now have the ability to use the equipment more to its full potential. I feel confident to go back and take ownership in our network monitoring with our DPS gear."

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