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Improving Telecom Operations with Real-Time Data

July 31, 2019

In 1996, I went to work for Cambric Corporation in Salt Lake City, Utah as a deputy project manager for a telecommunications outside-plant (OSP) data conversion project. The client was Bell Canada, and we had three primary subcontractors, based in India, that were responsible for the vast majority of the labor in converting legacy analog engineering design and “as-builts” drawings in to a full AM/FM/GIS for roughly 255 telephone exchanges covering the eastern provinces of Canada. I was largely responsible for managing the production schedules, operations and quality control of our Indian subcontractors. This required a fair amount of time on the ground in India providing guidance, oversight, supervision and management of nearly 1,000 project team members for more than 18 months.

When I accepted the role, I had a basic understanding of how telecommunications networks operated and the equipment involved in making a landline phone call. Cellular communications (aka: wireless), which we all take for granted today, barely existed at that point (yes, I know… I know), so I had to get smart quickly if I was going to be effective in my role, particularly when I went to Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad to visit our subcontractors. They were well-versed not only in the complex division of labor needed for efficient production at that scale, but they had an uncanny understanding of the telecommunications networks of eastern Canada at a very high level of detail.

The resources spent on this massive transformation were substantial, and the business value realized in the years immediately following the completion of the project were equally impressive across Bell Canada’s entire enterprise operations. Be that as it may, and despite the tens of millions ($) invested, and even as efficient as the entire complex conversion process was at the time, the data in the IMaP GIS system was never able to reflect the current reality of the infrastructure in the ground or hanging on poles because of the delays in work-order processing, construction, posting and reconciliation. There was no ability to capture accurate digital data in the field at the point of transaction (where a cable is split or spliced, a new line installed, etc.), and so the large-scale (1 inch = 100 feet) design documents had to be updated in the field on a paper work order.

Or, once the conversion project was completed, remote, disconnected rugged laptops with a portion of the GIS system “checked out” could be used to capture the work order details as well as how the updated system was actually installed (the “as-built”). This still had significant lag-time given that field engineers could be out for days before “checking in” the cumulative work they had been doing. Across the entire network, this posed a challenge for the network operations center (NOC) to provide fault-detection and troubleshooting in a responsive, customer-centric way — it was better than before but still not yet as good as it could be or would become in the years that followed.

Thankfully, in 2019, many of those legacy issues are long gone and managing a complex telecommunication network (comprised of copper coaxial cable, fiber, wireless, satellite, and all the requisite switching, signal boosting, power and relay equipment) in true real-time is an everyday occurrence. Capturing data at the point of transaction and syncing with enterprise geospatial infrastructure in real time with tools like Fulcrum is also increasingly common among telecommunications and cable providers, as well as their trusted subcontractors. Fulcrum can be found in operations documenting wireless tower installations, upgrades and maintenance in concert with UAV (drone) operations, video-mapping buried infrastructure for damage prevention (call-before-you-dig) operations, business or consumer equipment installation or repair, customer segmentation and analysis for marketing purposes, 5G tower and antenna site selection or network optimization engineering and competitor analysis, among dozens of other critical business functions. Fulcrum has found a receptive audience in the telecommunications industry, and that’s an indication to us that there are still real problems to solve, and that we’ve struck the right chord in helping solve many of them.

Check out the vast array of telecom apps we’ve built for your needs and our team will be delighted to answer any questions you may have during your trial as you explore how Fulcrum can be leveraged across your enterprise.

Fulcrum is a data collection platform that enables organizations to reduce costs, access critical data in real time, and improve decision making at every level. With Fulcrum, you can create custom apps using our simple drag-and-drop builder to turn your paper documents into digital forms that your field teams can quickly complete on mobile devices.