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The nine-page independent report into the chronic failures of Telecom’s XT mobile phone network should be slotted into the text book issued to aspiring radio engineers and network architects. It serves as an important lesson in now lot to undertake a major national engineering project.

The report by UK-based analyst group, Analysys Mason, gets to the point with the least amount of padding:

…at the time of the partial failures, the XT network and its supporting operations were not ready to effectively handle the large amounts of traffic the network experienced through the successful acquisition of XT customers and the migration of Telecom’s CDMA customers to the XT network.

Hammond the Hamster was all ready to go and Telecom’s marketing department was in high gear. But the most crucial part of the puzzle – network architecture, just wasn’t up to the heavy demand the legion of customers gagging to get off CDMA and onto a network with decent handsets that can roam internationally created.

Although the traffic volumes experienced following launch were within Telecom’s forecast volumes, the XT network was, for the reasons discussed more fully in this report, not able to manage those volumes. In the context of the levels of traffic experienced, the radio network controller (RNC), a key element of the network, was the weakest link.

The resultant failure of the Christchurch RNC led to a partial failure of the network in the southern region of New Zealand. Due to the relatively new network’s immature network management systems and processes, the pending issues were not quickly identified and rectified. This exacerbated issues that would ordinarily be addressed effectively and quickly within a mature network and well-practiced operational processes.

For those of us XT customers affected by the Telecom outages, this report won’t mean much, though you would hope that it will mean whatever Telecom rolls out in future will be properly load-tested.

But despite the management and procedural slip-ups that have been identified in the report the company actually did deliver when it came to owning up to the problem and making amends for it. I received a 50 per cent discount on my phone bill for three months and I doubt the new Blackberry 9700 I’m using would have been offered to my colleagues and I had the network not repeatedly hung up on its customers south of Taupo.

The report lists the things Telecom has already done to get its XT house in order…

. two additional RNCs in Christchurch and Auckland have already been deployed in the network to increase network reliability;
· additional RNCs are on order to increase network capacity so that the network is ready to handle future traffic growth;
· an XT network 2012 Target Architecture plan ensuring future reliability is currently being determined by Telecom;
· various network modifications are being implemented to improve coverage and performance;
· there is an in-depth capacity review underway between Telecom and Alcatel-Lucent; and
· operating model and procedural improvements are underway.

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