Telecom and SCADA
CharlesRivet 120000F3RC Visits (2109)
For those unfamiliar with the term, SCADA stands for "Supervisory, Control, and Data Acquisition". These systems are common within certain industries such as utilities (e.g., power or water distribution) and plant operations (e.g., power or manufacturing). These systems are put in place so that, from a central location (e.g., a power distribution network's control centre or a plant's control room), operators can monitor (supervise) and control (if need be) the system and data about the system can be acquired and stored for various reporting needs (historical trends, billing, etc.).
Does this not sound familiar for telecom networks?
A Communication Services Provider (CSP) needs to be able to monitor the flow of information across its network to ensure data is properly routed (especially in case of equipment failure), it may need to be able to put equipment out or into service for maintenance, and it does need to collect a lot of data on its users (and roaming users!) and its performance (e.g., to document its "5-9s" uptime requirements).
Still, there are difference between the telecom "SCADA" systems and those from other industries. One important one is that, given this age of ubiquitous mobile devices and the the rapidly coming age of "internet of things", there are many more devices (endpoints) that need to be tracked. In addition to this, many, if not most, of those are continually changing location and, therefore, connection paths through the network! And CSPs not only need to keep track of their own users, but also of those from other CSPs roaming on their network!
Big data? Definitely!
Another important difference is in the variety of devices that need to be monitored. This is not like your power utility installing the same type of smart power meter on all the houses in their district, where the number of customers is known and the houses are not moving. Granted, the CSP's network equipment (e.g., base stations, routers) itself is known and, often, their individual geolocation is also known and fixed. CSPs providing communication services to utilities also face known information with regards to the equipment and communication bandwidth required.
However, this is not the case with all the mobile devices. CSPs are pressed, by their customers, to provide the latest mobile phones (or tablets!) soon after the manufacturers have made them available. CSPs also want these devices, which are often more powerful and likely to make increased use of the network capabilities, to be available quickly so as to increase their Average Revenue per User (ARPU). Unfortunately, it is often not as easy as simply selling these devices: changes have to be made so the, sometimes different, data streams from the mobile devices are correctly interpreted and fed back to the back office for billing and product tracking purposes. Just look at the effect of the iPhone adoption on both AT&T and Verizon. Granted, GSM vs. CDMA support also played a role here, but with 4G/LTE now being deployed, the CSPs need to support one more standard.
So from a CSPs' perspective, improving the time it takes to be able to support these new devices, which are released at an ever increasing pace, and provide them to their customers is fundamental in maintaining and increasing their user base, improving their ARPU, and growing their revenue. From a development perspective, this means reducing the time it takes from a CSP product manager selecting a new device to the release of this device on a network that is ready to connect it and to process its billing.
I've already talked, in a previous post about collaborating across the supply chain. In order to accomplish this time reduction, we are now talking about collaboration within and across a CSP's organizational silos, which will be the topic of a future post...