T-Mobile Austria has a market share of approximately one third of all mobile radio users in Austria and its network infrastructure spans 98% of the country. In addition to mobile telephony, T-Mobile Austria also offers fixed network voice and data services, Internet access and Virtual Private Networks to its business customers. Sabine Ringhofer, who is responsible for Network Operations and OSS at T-Mobile Austria, tells Mobile Europe how the operator coped with supporting an ever-expanding infrastructure.
Monitoring the service delivery infrastructure became a strategic task for T-Mobile Austria,” says Sabine Ringhofer, who is responsible for Network Operations and OSS (Operational Support Systems) at T-Mobile Austria.
“Over the years T-Mobile Austria gathered such a heterogeneous IT and telecommunications environment that just gaining an overview of the element management systems in operation required a precise and in-depth knowledge of the organization.”
The T-Mobile Austria IT infrastructure evolved to include a complex mix of hardware from Siemens, Alcatel, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and many other vendors. The organisation runs a number of operating systems that include Windows NT/2000, Sun Solaris, HP-UX and Linux. These systems, devices and associated applications demand 24-hour surveillance to detect possible service failures or system bottlenecks before they cause service failures or generate customer complaints.
“We required an end-to-end management console with the scalability to consolidate and visualize our entire operational environment,” says Ms. Ringhofer. “We wanted to reduce maintenance, operational and training costs by combining all T-Mobile Austria’s various element management applications into one overall solution that could provide a strategic backbone to support our services.”
T-Mobile Austria also sought further operational efficiencies by incorporating several regional Service Operation Centers into a single central Service Management Center based in Bonn. T-Mobile Austria’s requirements were specific yet demanding. They required a central management tool with the flexibility to integrate with a diverse number of third-party applications and devices, but with the scalability to consolidate hundreds of thousands of infrastructure events in realtime. Further, the organization required a tool that could provide fast implementation yet was future proofed to enable easy integration of new services as they appear.
Despite the specific requirements laid out by T-Mobile Austria, the decision was quickly made to use Micromuse’s Netcool Solutions for Wireless Service Management.
The project faced a challenging deadline however — service level monitoring was required urgently as individual Service Level Agreements (SLAs) had already been agreed with T-Mobile Austria’s customers. It was also crucial to guard against service downtime — even the smallest systems management failure could become very expensive for the company. After a discussion with Micromuse and its implementation partner Unisys, it was agreed to proceed with the project in several phases.
“We started implementing the solutions with a partial project in our key SNMP/VMS domain. We were confident of an early success due to the relatively uncomplicated nature of the technology,” says Ms. Ringhofer. “We installed the core realtime database, giving us a permanent overview of the infrastructure.” This first phase was closed very quickly and began delivering tangible benefits to T-Mobile Austria team in three months.
The applications and systems that run over T-Mobile Austria’s IT infrastructure are critical to the delivery of its core business services. Every minor message from the IT infrastructure needs to be filed to ensure that every function is constantly under control.
“We implemented several solutions from the service monitors family,” says Ms. Ringhofer. “The service monitors manage our Internet services,the wireless service monitors monitor our mobile radio networks, and most importantly, the systems service monitors and application service monitors provide round-the-clock management of our host and server devices. This ensures that important applications will never fail without being noticed.”
The initial rollout of the technology across T-Mobile Austria provided a consolidated view of all the events generated by the various devices, applications, systems and servers in the infrastructure. With that in place, the T-Mobile Austria central network management center only receives 200 to 300 critical infrastructure events per day, a vast improvement on the average of 200,000 events per day received prior to the implementation. The next step, however, was to actually make sense of that information.
“The monitoring rollout has really eased our workload, but our aim was not to learn that a router issued 2000 error messages in three hours, but what this router means for T-Mobile Austria’s services and ultimately, our customers,” says Ms. Ringhofer.
“To correlate the events produced by the IT infrastructure with our business and customer data, we implemented a correlation engine, so that we now know which infrastructure events could breach customer services. This enables us to prioritize and react accordingly.”
Recently, Ms. Ringhofer’s team introduced the Realtime Active Dashboards (formerly known as the SLA Manager) to supplement the correlation engine solution and support advanced service-level monitoring. The dashboard displays threatened service agreements in realtime, correlating this information with pre-agreed performance thresholds and then evaluating and prioritizing accordingly. In circumstances where SLAs are about to be violated, an alarm is automatically triggered and the responsible personnel informed. “This is another step towards results-oriented service-level management,” says Ms. Ringhofer.
Precise Detection of Errors
Finally, T-Mobile Austria is currently implementing the a solution to enable the dynamic recognition and display of network infrastructure components in a detailed map format and provide topology-based event correlation.
“We wanted to answer the question of where —.in which building, in which room is the defective device,” says Ms. Ringhofer. “This solution enables the support team to be at the right place to fix a broken device very quickly. At the same time, it is able to detect and map all the devices in our entire network to give better visibility of our resources and the way they interlink with each other.”
“T-Mobile Austria’s consolidation and service management project was very complex,” says Ms. Ringhofer. “When the project is fully completed, the suite will give us the answer to all our questions regarding service, systems, application and network management.”
Delivering digital content
Matt Hooper, vice-president of marketing & alliances at mobile content delivery specialist, elata, looks at the rich revenue streams that mobile operators can further build from digital content — providing they can get their delivery strategy right…
As the full financial potential of the downloadable content sector — driven by wireless java content and devices — became apparent, many operators concentrated on building a short term content delivery strategy based on 2.5G network infrastructure that could tap into this immediate market and generate revenue quickly.
However, early content delivery platforms, which were often propriety and supplied on a revenue share basis, were rolled out without the necessary level of functionality, integration or scalability and with little understanding of the complexities of creating, managing and delivering multiple content types and propositions in a unified marketing environment. Now the market is changing, and most operators find themselves in one of two situations:
1. Running a short term silo system In the rush to create content delivery platforms that could quickly gather revenue, many operators built ‘stove pipe’ solutions that offered good short term pilot systems, but limited flexibility and scalability for adapting new content types or handset standards, new billing structures and high volumes of content from multiple providers. This has inevitably led to high operating costs and inflexibility.
2. Planning long term SDP infrastructure projects The inefficiencies of the silo system approach have led many operators to ‘start too big’ — combining all elements of the OSS and BSS infrastructure in a single architecture. These large, unfocused projects prevent operators from exploiting the significant short and medium term revenue streams available from rich downloadable content.
The focus is now to look at the near term implications of supporting new content types such as video and music, as well as gaming and images, within a rich marketing framework. In this respect operators would do well to learn from the e-commerce boom of the late nineties. Those online operations which had considered future customer requirements and integrated back-end supply chain functions — such as Amazon — thrived. Those that operated a simple web front end soon fell by the way side as higher operating costs strangled profit margins and their customers deserted them.
Consumers of mobile content are already growing to expect the same levels of customer support they receive for voice calls and will increasingly demand tailored, targeted content and a fully integrated user experience — whether through web portals or their handsets. Operators need to be ready to meet that demand or face the consequences.
Although the challenges offered by implementing the right content delivery strategy are complex and many, a back to basics approach will reap the biggest rewards. At the simplest level, operators need to create an environment where rich content services, both online and downloadable, can be ingested, packaged and delivered to the mobile device as efficiently as possible — for this to take place, choosing the appropriate software architecture will be key. Operators must concentrate on fulfilling the core requirements of a successful content delivery environment as part of their SDP strategy while ensuring their solution can incorporate future growth.
For example, hosting multiple content types from multiple providers in a secure workflow is fundamental, and should be considered a key element of any operator’s content delivery platform. Managing high volumes of downloadable content requires high levels of automation and the necessary structure to control and certify content before making it available to consumers. Furthermore, maintaining this flexibility in the content delivery system is elementary as content and service types will continue to proliferate.
A second crucial requirement of the content delivery platform is the effective management of these multiple content and service types. What content should be targeted and packaged for which customer segments? What services will their handset capabilities support? What digital rights protection policy should be applied? Will revenue be maximised through micro payments or through a subscription tariff? Subscribers must be shielded from these complex technical decision processes if the user experience is to be compelling.
Integrated and effective customer care and marketing functions are the other critical components of the intelligent content delivery platform. Pushing the right content to the right customer segment in new ways will be critical in reducing subscriber churn. Should there be a problem with the delivery of their content, a centralised data repository and interface will enable customer services to swiftly resolve any issues.
The bottom line for operators is simple — having the best content won’t be enough. Success lies in delivering products to market in the most effective way — the way that the customer wants, when they want it.
Digital content may seem like a very large market — a $126 billion market if the ARC Group is to be believed — but everybody now wants a piece of the action. Operators need to embrace a middle ground strategy, to focus on ensuring the core of their content delivery solution is in place and that their software architecture is flexible enough to grow. Then, and only then, can service providers be confident that their subscribers will be receiving content that makes them remain loyal customers and brings a sustainable source for revenue before, during and after 3G.