Partner Communications Israel (Orange IL) (PTNR) planned to enter the 3G market in December 2004. Already a leading 2G provider, Partner needed a seamless transition to incorporate 3G services without noticeable effect on current subscribers’ user experience.
TTI Telecom (TTIL) designed an OSS solution in line with TMF NGOSS and MTNM concepts, maintaining software and application flexibility to comply with constant UMTS technology upgrades and new service offerings. A unified network-wide mediation layer, and sophisticated integration between Fault and Performance Management systems, gave the solution the proactive capabilities necessary to maintain operational efficiency and a reputation for premium service quality.
Partner Communications Israel became a leading player in the Israeli mobile communications market by 2004. Orange launched its 2G, GSM-based network in January 1999, and by late 2004 had become a leading service provider, having built up a subscriber base of more than 2 million (around a third of the nation’s population at the time) and offering nationwide coverage. Based on the state of technology and competition in the market at the time, Partner planned to roll out its 3G UMTS network in December 2004.
In order to maximize the returns on the significant investment dedicated to the 3G rollout, there were a few key business-level challenges which Partner would have to address from the initial network planning stages. First, Partner aimed to secure a solid market share with a loyal customer base. In a market already highly saturated with 2G services, this goal would have to be achieved with a high degree of flexibility to rapidly offer any new content or service popular among 3G subscribers, as well as the ability to provide premium QoS and differentiate themselves with a reputation for a satisfying user experience. Secondly, Partner would be obligated to offer attractive prices for its 3G subscription plans, while at the same time ensuring the profitability of its 3G business plan. Therefore, any solution selected to achieve Partner’s service management goals would also have to maximize efficiency in network operations as well.
In working to solve the business-level challenges listed above, Partner would have to address several technical challenges as well. The new network would be far more complex than the 2G network already in operation. The 3G services would have to span a multidomain network architecture more complex than the one they were currently managing, which would include its RAN access points and the core, IP traffic, and various applications and content servers. Additionally, Partner would have to manage the network over a wider range of interface protocols, such as SNMP, Corba, XML and others. The infrastructure components themselves would be coming from multiple vendors, so the network management would need to incorporate increasingly varied data sources. Finally, once it was all in place, they still had the challenge of keeping up with frequent updates in UMTS technology.
To address this management challenge, Partner had to select the right OSS vendor as its network management partner, with whom it would work in close coordination to build the overall solution. Partner chose TTI Telecom due to the best-of-breed technology in its products and high-level professional services. In addition to its offering of advanced individual OSS products, TTI Telecom was also selected its integration capabilities. Seamless integration with the network ensures smooth operation and flexibility in network planning, while sophisticated integration between the Fault and Performance OSS modules enable advanced, proactive management capabilities.
Having been selected by Partner, TTI Telecom designed an OSS platform which was guided partially by principles developed in key TeleManagement Forum initiatives. One of the key initiatives embodied in Partner’s solution is the concept of Multi-Technology Network Management (MTNM). MTNM, and the following MTOSI framework, ensures interoperability from the network element up through the various management system layers. With MTNM, OSS planning and network development no longer restrict each other, enabling flexibility in selecting the multivendor, multiprotocol equipment commonly deployed in 3G networks.
In addition to ensuring flexibility in network design and expansion, TTI Telecom also ensures flexibility within the OSS platform according to the TMF’s NGOSS framework. By defining the individual OSS modules in line with standardized interfaces and functional definitions, TTI Telecom gave partner greater control over its OSS platform, with the flexibility to add or switch modules according to its future needs.
In close collaboration, Partner and TTI Telecom designed an OSS solution for the new 3G network based on several key components of TTI Telecom’s Netrac product suite. In addition to the individual OSS products selected, an equally important aspect was the integration. Seamless integration between the components of this solution ensured smooth operation. TTI Telecom’s technical capabilities regarding integration between Fault and Performance systems gave Partner’s solution its capacity for proactive fault resolution and network management. In addition, standard-compliant interfaces preserve Partner’s flexibility to expand or modify its platform with new OSS technology from TTI Telecom or any other vendor.
The OSS solution designed for Partner’s 3G network consisted of the following Netrac components, spanning Mediation, Fault and Performance Management
Netrac Mediation: TTI Telecom’s unified mediation layer formed the cornerstone of the OSS landscape in Partner’s 3G network. As network architecture grows increasingly complex and processes become more sophisticated and proactive, a unified mediation layer becomes all the more critical. In order to achieve the level of QoS and user experience Partner aimed to support, the overall service management OSS would have to present a coherent, end-to-end view of the network and its topology. Any OSS solution aiming to provide such a network view over a multiprotocol, multivendor infrastructure, must be based on a unified mediation layer, or risk overburdening the network management staff.
TTI Telecom’s unified mediation layer enables Partner’s entire OSS platform to adapt to rapid changes in the network and integrate new data resources in pace with the continued addition of new applications and their unique monitoring needs. As one of Partner’s key objectives was to preserve its flexibility to rapidly roll out new content or services over its 3G network, Netrac Mediation’s ability to continue incorporating numerous passive and active probes years after the initial deployment illustrate its value as the base for the OSS platform.
Mediating a multivendor network also poses a challenge of normalizing a huge amount of data into a uniform format to simplify impairments investigation and reduce the manual overhead and human errors involved in such processes. Converting codes to meaningful information, filtering out insignificant content, adding configuration data and unifying alarm wording are several examples of automated tasks built into Netrac Mediation which help it achieve that goal.
An important architectural aspect that had to be addressed is the need to support carrier-grade volume of performance measurements and alarms produced by Partner’s network elements. As network devices become more complex, the amount of data they report grows. Netrac’s mediation platform successfully managed to process thousands of OMs and hundreds of KPIs per vendor equipment, without compromising its availability and centricity in the entire OSS architecture.
Netrac FaM: Netrac FaM is the central component of TTI Telecom’s Fault Management OSS. It enables work processes automation, events consolidation and events enrichment from the external sources. These events are prioritized, correlated and presented on a single, centralized view. Netrac FaM also leverages integration with Netrac PMM threshold alarms to alert managers of performance degradation problems. In addition, Netrac FaM coordinates the flow of information to the root-cause isolation engine and the trouble ticketing system thus optimizing the flow of information and minimizing the response time of Partner’s operations center to critical service impairments.
Netrac FaM includes an alarm correlation engine which provides an advanced approach to alarm reduction and fault isolation. With more than 15,000 events received on a daily basis from Partner’s 3G network, TTI Telecom’s FaM correlation engine was a valuable tool for Partner to shorten the fault resolution cycle, free engineering staff to focus where human intelligence is truly needed and consequently improve operational efficiency.
NeTkT: Netrac Trouble Ticket (NeTkT) aids operators throughout the fault resolution cycle by managing trouble reports from creation to resolution, closure, and archiving. NeTkT provides a cross-domain trouble ticketing system, which is shared by NOC, IT and engineering staff for improved coordination and operational efficiency. In its solution for Partner, TTI Telecom also included the Shift Information Management Application (SIMA), a managerial system functioning over the broader trouble ticket system, facilitating shift management and task prioritization.
PMM: TTI Telecom’s Netrac Performance Management Module (PMM) is the OSS’s focal point for organizing Partner’s network and service performance information. PMM draws on key performance indicators (KPIs) and records from additional OSS components such as EMSs/NMSs and from the network equipment itself. PMM then analyzes, formats and presents this information in Web reports and graphs, providing a thorough and meaningful view of performance across the network.
In addition to standard Performance Management capabilities, Netrac PMM uses its built-in KPI/KQI calculation engine in order to calculate and evaluate meaningful network and service metrics which cannot be obtained directly from network elements. The KPI/KQI calculation engine analyzes data records received from probes or IN devices (Intelligent Network domain) and transforms them into network and service metrics, based on pre-defined normalization and aggregation rules. Offering a very high degree of accuracy and flexibility, the KPI/KQI calculation engine gives Partner an efficient way to monitor overall service quality and to measure achievement of performance benchmarks.
Netrac PMM was included in Partner’s solution to enable NOC staff to quickly and easily evaluate operations and assist in network and policy planning. With PMM, managers are able to easily compare current traffic and performance levels with past data to identify gaps and other important trends. Understanding the importance of addressing performance degradations proactively, aggregated PMM reports are also generated to the upper management for review on a daily basis.
TrafficGuard: TrafficGuard is traffic analysis and thresholding tool, providing a powerful proactive element to TTI Telecom’s Performance Management OSS. TrafficGuard monitors performance indicators and traffic patterns, and measures the data against historical trends and standard or user-defined thresholds to produce QoS alerts in near-real time. For example, Partner used this capability to help identify “sleeping cells” within the network. Sleeping cells – network components recording zero traffic – might go unnoticed if they are associated with an event for which no alarm was received, since a lack of traffic itself does not trigger an alarm from most network elements. Therefore, Partner was able to use TrafficGuard’s customizable parameters to alert its engineers whenever this traffic abnormality occurred.
By alerting NOC staff as thresholds are approached or any other irregular traffic patterns are detected, TrafficGuard enabled Partner to anticipate and prevent degradation. This capability for real proactive service management improves the end-user experience by addressing network events before they impact QoS, and improves efficiency by pre-empting the reactive fault resolution process.
Partner achieved a successful rollout and is currently one of the leading 3G service providers in the country, with more than 400,000 3G subscribers. Now, with three years of hindsight, Partner and TTI Telecom have been able to evaluate key results from the project. First and foremost, the OSS solution and its vendor must be made an integral part of the network development process. This is particularly important as managers of more advanced networks increasingly define their OSS goals in terms of constantly evolving business-level objectives rather than simply percentages of element downtime or other network-centric benchmarks. Flexible performance and quality indicators’ calculation and aggregation capabilities are also important in order to “sell” their OSS success within the organization and to keep various management layers informed and involved.
As for the products themselves, Partner’s experience confirms the importance of flexible and proactive OSS. Netrac’s unified mediation layer has proven its ability to assimilate new network data, incorporating new counters or changes in network topology into a single body of information on which management systems can be based. Root-cause analysis has been streamlined, with TTI Telecom’s OSS having achieved a 15:1 alarm reduction ratio. Overall, the mix of Fault and Performance Management systems has enabled Partner to maintain a satisfied customer base and a reputation as a premium service provider.