Location, Location: The Time for a Telecom GIS Module has Arrived
Geospatial data is fast becoming a central resource in the operational infrastructure of the telecoms industry. Operators omit being able to access the latest location information at their peril, yet many still fall short of the mark. Why is telecom GIS so critical, and what advantages does the technology deliver?
In telecoms, location matters and that means telecom GIS is playing an increasingly central role in the industry. As we’ll see in this blog, awareness of location information is vital to successfully executing a variety of use cases. However, only in recent years has location technology really evolved sufficiently to meet operator’s needs. Having caught up, expect that technology – in the form of a GIS module linked to inventory management systems – to become commonplace.
Why, and what’s changed? Historically, operators either relied on less effective, self-built systems to gather location data or alternatively purchased off-the-shelf products that were limited due to inherent interoperability issues with other vital infrastructure systems. Since the value of GIS data lies mainly in its application by those other systems, this was a real problem.
That changed with the advent of the Telecommunications Management Network (TMN), a system of standardized business organization framework which specified a standard of interoperability using industry-wide protocols. So now, GIS applications that meet the standard can function effectively and are driving a new generation of GIS-powered solutions, which, in turn, are fueling a new generation of use cases.
Proof? Today, geospatial data tools are deployed to better manage networks, to automate business processes, to improve customer service, to increase operational efficiency, and more. An integrated telecom GIS is becoming commonplace within the operator’s infrastructure.
Telecom GIS use cases; an overview
Let’s look a little more closely. As we’ve already noted, there are many operational areas and use cases in which GIS plays a role. Among the most important, here are four:
1. Mobile asset management
As is the case with any company regardless of industry, a telecoms operator’s business is founded on a bedrock of assets. Information about the functionality and availability of these assets needs to be accessible to manage the business in an optimal way. In telecoms, the assets range from infrastructure componentry to plain old human resources (people) and much in between. Mobile asset management is the function of managing these resources, mainly with the dual goals of performance tracking and future planning.
In this sphere, telecom GIS assists in a variety of ways. It does so by providing weather information which can help protect physical assets; by providing transport information it can streamline maintenance operations; where customer home installations are required, enhanced mobile dispatch can improve customer service and satisfaction. The advantages are easy to see.
2. Customer relationships and service
In today’s fiercely competitive telecommunications market, the importance of effective customer service can hardly be overstated. It’s key to winning market share. And here again, telecom GIS plays a central role in the equation. It can help ensure new services are delivered to a standard that meets the customer’s expectations, it can speed up the response to queries and thus help resolve trouble tickets, and it can expand already available information with updates on, for instance, location-specific network performance, as required. How?
Well, geospatial data allows a customer service team to access a wide range of customer information based solely on location. In most cases this allows issues to be resolved far more quickly and with far less wasted effort. It can be used to track and explain service outages, to create reports on problems that can assist root cause analysis, and to understand connections and disconnections by location, meaning affected areas can be identified faster and customers updated accordingly. It’s not an exaggeration to make the simple claim that with GIS functionality deployed, customer satisfaction goes up and customer churn goes down.
3. Investment planning
For telecoms companies, managing capex is a primary concern. Geospatial data is becoming central to future capital planning because it’s a key source of information about existing customer usage and demand for services, telling us where they are and matching network data to locations on the ground. This is what informs network development and capacity requirements.
As such, GIS allows spending to be directed where it’s best suited to meet identified customer demand. It also enables labor resources to be directed at the appropriate levels, to where they’re most impactful. And over time, that increases RoI.
4. Network design and management
Network design and management is arguably the most important operational area impacted by telecom GIS technology and presently, with the increasing pace of 5G and fiber network deployment, it’s a critical domain operationally (because 5G and new fiber are driving a wide-scale redesign of networks across the industry).
Network design (one factor driving which is the goal of matching investment to customer demand) is a complex task. It must consider network monitoring, problem detection, reporting, fault identification, and the cost effective sunsetting of previous generations of technology as new ones replace them.
Here, telecom GIS can perform analysis that takes into account customer data, terrain, utilities information, physical infrastructure location, and much more. The knowledge this provides is the raw material of optimal network design, maximizing coverage while significantly reducing costs and better managing resources.
And then there’s network management. GIS plays a central role here, too. It can help maximize capacity to address DoS issues, monitor network performance to increase operational efficiency, improve fault awareness and thus reduce unnecessary load on technicians, and improve network recovery time where issues arise. GIS also enables the operator to understand if its resources are being used to maximum advantage.
The telecom GIS module from VC4
Though we’ve only scratched the surface of the subject in this blog, we can nevertheless confidently conclude that integrated GIS mapping for telecoms operators is a mission critical function. What, then, should be looking for in the context of deployment?
At VC4, we believe the core requirement is for a module that supports the complete integration of logical and physical inventory with GIS mapping capabilities and geographic backgrounds.
Such a solution should enable the operator to visualize and explore the network both graphically and/or geographically, interfacing with different GIS-geo background data providers (i.e., Google maps, Bing, OpenStreet Maps, ESRI, government specific data, and so on) and be fully integrated with network inventory, physical, logical, active, and passive network, workflow, impact analytics, etc.
One leading example of this in practice is VC4-IMS, a network management solution with full telecom GIS functionality. VC4-IMS delivers the 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 to perform auto-provisioning (service fulfilment) which facilitates building and rolling out services in the network – for which accurate geospatial data is, of course, essential!
To learn more about how VC4-IMS and telecoms GIS functionality perform together, download our white paper “GIS for managing telecom networks”, here.