Optus overhauls network services

Summary:Optus has completed a massive reorganisation of its network management operations that has seen hundreds of staff redeployed in a bid to boost service standards. The telco in recent weeks began showing select customers its consolidated network management centre (NMC), in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood, after it completed the nine-month long project in February.

Optus has completed a massive reorganisation of its network management operations that has seen hundreds of staff redeployed in a bid to boost service standards.

The telco in recent weeks began showing select customers its consolidated network management centre (NMC), in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood, after it completed the nine-month long project in February.

The revamped centre became operational over several weekends last month, taking over support and service for both business customers and consumers.

There were no interruptions to the carrier or its customers during the transition, according to the telco.

The consolidated centre replaces five separate network operations centre (NOC) groups within Optus, and represents a single shared services approach. The NOCs had operated with 500 staff, but their amalgamation and a re-classification of business units meant the streamlined centre will serve customers with around 300 staff.

"We have lost heads," said Kevin Saunders, general manager, network management, Optus. "We've trimmed at the edges and have a much different operational structure."

However an Optus spokesperson said staff had only been moved within Optus during the project and there had not been any redundancies. She declined to specify the business unit they had moved to.

Staff at the centre will monitor the operation of Optus' business, consumer, core and mobile networks in a bid to centralise resources and lines of communication. A separate centre is responsible for Optus' wholesale and satellite network.

"[With the consolidated centre], we'll be able to identify more easily the customers that are impacted and react to that, and [provide] real-time management of dynamic service level agreements," said Dan Whitehead, general manager, network assurance systems for Optus.

"It's about giving the business the opportunity not to set generic service level agreements, but focused ones," he said.

As part of improving service levels, Optus will go to tender this year for service level agreement management.

The consolidated centre also gives Optus a dedicated backup centre for disaster recovery, according to Whitehead.

In addition, the centre would provide further opportunities for Optus to converge the management of its technology and telecommunications services.

According to Saunders, the different NOC groups for Optus' business, consumer, core and mobile networks had not grown to be an ideal structure: "In the early days of Optus, everybody was empowered to make a decision, everybody was out building a system, everybody was out putting network in," he said. "Consequently, we built a huge legacy IT base."

Saunders explained that the mobile network centre relied on packet management while some transmission paths were managed by a different centre and local switches were managed by yet another centre.

"We had people doing similar things in different centres," he said, adding that the main way for staff to communicate on such issues was to "rack up the phone bill".

"[There were also] a lot of customised scripts across the whole network, none of them were managed locally," he said.

As such, complex faults were often passed between NOCs several times before service could be resolved, according to Saunders.

"So you had things happening in one part of the network, and another group would be managing on the edge of that, and would be impacted by it."

The disparate NOCs had been the largest cost to Optus, according to Saunders, but the opportunity had presented itself to integrate.

"There was a growing convergence of platforms and technologies, and also...the different lines of business, although delivering different products, were relying on the same technology to deliver those different products."

Under the new centre model, more Optus customer field services staff would move into network surveillance roles, according to Saunders.

This would make service assurance more proactive, rather than reactive and help them manage the network more effectively and focus on services, he said.

"We still need to manage the network, but it will be a much smaller piece than it is today. We want change the paradigm for service," he added.

Topics: Telcos, Optus

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