Access to location information is increasingly important for telecoms network operators. Because of this, GIS is playing a growing role in the industry. In this blog, we’ll explain exactly what GIS is and give examples of ways in which accurate location awareness is vital.
You can think of GIS as a data-mapping system. First, GIS collects data and then it integrates what’s been collected with a map, so the data is directly related to a location. In other words, armed with GIS functionality, the user not only has the “what” (the information the collected data contains) but also the “where” (the geography to which the data is applicable).
If you’re a telecoms operator (or, for that matter, any other kind of enterprise) this is important because a comprehensive foundation for mapping and analysis is likely to be of considerable value to your business. Why? Because as we’ll see, GIS data can improve communication and efficiency, streamline management and decision making, identify the physical location of problems, help you to manage and respond to events, understand trends, and much more.
The impact of GIS can be felt in multiple business areas. Here are eight advantages that leveraging the technology delivers.
1. Greater agility and adaptability
When network issues arise (always unwelcome but sometimes unavoidable!) GIS lowers the cost of failure. With location information, responsiveness to customer requirements improves. Example of this in practice include knowing where exactly network assets are situated, so that faults can be pinpointed to a specific location (premises, duct, tunnel, cable, etc.); eliminating geographical redundancy in network planning; siting network expansion where new demand is high; and many others.
2. Better planning
The network planning process (plan, build, operate) is complex and location information has a role to play in all three of these phrases. GIS provides more than just location: context. It tells you about the presence of properties, other utilities, and additional information critical to planning. Being aware of this ultimately ensures a better performing network operation.
3. Smoother deployments
GIS information is critical not just for planning but also for actual network deployment. Take the example of fiber rollouts. Knowing about potential obstacles in the physical path is a key aspect of deployment; are other works planned in an area, where are existing cables, ducts, manholes, and other utilities located, etc.? Without knowing the obstacles, you don’t even know if the premises being targeted for rollout can even be reached.
4. Improved customer care
Meeting customer needs is obviously vital, and GIS enhances the ability to do so. For instance, location plays a key role in customer care. The resolution of reported issues often requires information regarding the location of the issue as well as the type of issue. Similarly, when a problem occurs, are there other outages in same geography – what’s the potential wider impact of an issue? GIS enables this view to be captured and improves Impact Analysis. In the same way, the data can be used to ensure that customers in an area affected by an incident are sent progress updates, and staff can be provided with the relevant reports automatically. Such information can be sourced from a Geo-dependent server, with location correlated with context and customer data. Similarly, GIS can also help avoid Singe Points of Failure (SPOFs) in network design – for example, the routing of active and backup channels via the same fiber path. Removing such SPOFs helps avoid future outages, boosting customer satisfaction.
5. Faster problem resolution
With mapping, reported issues can be addressed and resolved more quickly than without it. Where, for example, there is a Single Point of Failure in the network, GIS can identify the location and which back-up systems might be available to immediately remedy the problem in the short term, while a more permanent fix is delivered. Another useful function is the ability to identify the exact location of a fiber cut. Once an ODTR measurement has been taken, the distance to the fiber break can be mapped to the real physical location on the map, enriched with GIS data.
6. More efficient network management
Operators need to operate networks, not just to plan and build them. This means knowing which assets are being used, when, and how, which resources might need to be expanded and which might be disabled. Location information is part of the decision-making process and has the potential to save millions by eliminating redundant assets in the process.
7. Cost effective field services
GIS plays a key role in network construction and checking faults where the ability to pinpoint exactly where in the ground a fault lies is required. Knowing location and distance is important in this context, as is knowing whether you can excavate and fix it at the lowest cost. Plus, there’s no use identifying a fault if you can’t reach it. GIS information gives you the answer.
8. Next generation services and innovation
New services are booming but these come with new performance requirements - 100% reliability, guaranteed speeds, and even new QoS rules. GIS information is almost certain to be one element in the increasingly complex new service mix, something we’re already seeing, for instance via new slices across the transport network.
GIS for your operations
For network planners and service providers, GIS is becoming a core component of their operational arsenal. A detailed knowledge of each network asset, its location, how it’s performing, and more is required for both network planning and service design and delivery. Location and context are a central part of this knowledge.
In the telecommunications industry, processing this information is the domain of the Network Inventory Management platform. One leading example is VC4-IMS, which does exactly this using a rigorous set process, with complete integration to GIS systems. It discovers and collects raw data from every relevant entity in the network, normalizes, and then reconciles it.
As a result, VC4-IMS delivers a critical, panoramic view all physical and logical resources in the network giving the operator a clear, unified understanding of live network assets, and their utilization and configuration at any given time. The platform can also be integrated into the network itself to perform auto-provisioning (service fulfilment) which facilitates building and rolling out services in the network.
To learn more about how VC4-IMS and GIS functionality perform in tandem, please download our new white paper.