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Network review complete

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Posted on May 2, 2016

10 min read

Today we’re announcing the completion of the network review we commenced in February, and the commitment of an additional $50 million to implement the recommendations.

The review looked at every aspect of our network, end to end. Overall, it confirmed the incredible strength and resilience of our network – which is the largest in Australia and the fastest based on a national average of 3G and 4G speeds.

Specifically, the findings identified three key outcomes and actions for us. We’re in the process of implementing these now:

  1. We have confirmed the root causes of those disruptions and implemented a range of steps to significantly reduce the likelihood of these issues happening again. This has included increasing redundancy in the nodes, adding more capacity to the core network, introducing new processes and procedures for key network element restarts, and improving resilience in our international connectivity.
  2. We are increasing the sophistication of our network monitoring. We will invest $25 million in additional systems and tools that will help us get better, earlier warnings of traffic patterns that might be a cause for concern.
  3. We are improving our network recovery time – specifically, reducing the time it takes for lots of customers to re-register or reconnect onto our network at once. This re-registration process is a common challenge for network operators around the world. We will be investing $25 million in this work so that our recovery time will be best in class.

Our network is a large, complex and sophisticated technology environment. To put that into context, across our various domestic networks we manage more than 500,000 network elements including 170,000 routers and switches, 85,000 mobile cells, power and facilities for 40,000 exchanges and network assets, more than 6 million kilometres of optical fibre cable and 250 million kilometres of copper cable.

So while no network operator in the world can guarantee that disruptions won’t occur from time to time, what we can do is reduce the likelihood and the impact of those disruptions.

Demand for data and connectivity will continue to rise exponentially – in fact, our mobile network carries nearly double the amount of traffic than it did two years ago.

I am personally determined to rebuild the trust you have in us by meeting, if not exceeding, those expectations every day.

We are absolutely committed to retaining our position as Australia’s best mobile network and will continue to focus on innovative ways to deliver to a world class standard.

For more detail, please refer to my speech below delivered at today’s Investor Day briefing.

 

Investor Day Speech – Monday 2 May 2016

Thanks Peter, and thanks for the opportunity to update you all on the review of our mobile network following recent disruptions and the steps we are taking to regain our customers’ trust.

Our mobile network is an asset our customers value as much as we do, and it reflects many years of continued investment and the very best engineering expertise. Every night our engineers make numerous changes to ensure it is performing to the very highest standards.

It is Australia’s largest network – I am pleased to announce that our 4G network alone now reaches 97% of the population and will reach 98% by June this year and 99% by June 2017 – and our customers enjoy Australia’s fastest mobile speeds.

Just to put that into context, across our various domestic networks, we manage over 500,000 network elements, including 170,000 routers and switches, 85,000 mobile cells, power and facilities for 40,000 exchanges and network assets, over 6 million kilometres of optical fibre cable and 250 million kilometres of copper cable.

With the explosion of data, the mobile network now carries around 50% more data than it did 12 months ago and the team is working on new innovations to ensure we are meeting future demands of media and content.

And we are making it even better. Over the three years to June 2017 we will have invested more than $5 billion into our mobile network.

We are proud of its performance however we absolutely understand that the disruptions in February and March have impacted our customers’ confidence.

Following those issues, we have been absolutely committed to keeping everyone informed about what happened, why it happened, and what we’ve been doing to address it.

As part of that, today I’d like to spend some time talking to you about the three major outcomes of our thorough review which has been the singular focus for me and my networks team since those disruptions occurred.

We are confident we have identified and fixed the root causes of those disruptions, and we have spent time looking at the resilience of the network and identifying ways to ensure we continue to operate at a world class standard for the future.

Importantly today I am also going to spend some time focussing on the reasons why we are still Australia’s best network.

The review findings

The review included our own specialist teams, global experts from Ericsson, Juniper and Cisco, and an independent adviser Dave Williams from Tech Mahindra, to help us ensure we left no stone unturned.

During the course of this review, we have taken a range of short- and medium-term actions to improve the resilience of our network.

We have already implemented a number of the recommendations and we have allocated an additional $50 million to implement some key initiatives delivering us cutting edge tools in network traffic monitoring, as well as setting an even higher standard for recovery than what we observe in other networks globally.

This will assist with monitoring as well as set a higher standard in recovery for our network than what we observe in the networks of other similar telecommunications providers globally.

Let me now take you through each of our key findings.

The first outcome is that we have confirmed the root causes of those disruptions and implemented a range of steps to address those root causes and significantly reduce the likelihood of these issues happening again.

We have increased the number of redundant links on the nodes which were involved in the 9 February disruption and we have added new software features that limit the number of customers who would be required to re-register.

We have also added more capacity to the core network, as well as introducing additional checks and balances to key network element restarts.

In addition we now have more resilience in our international connectivity and we have added another redundant link from Perth to Sydney.

We have also made other network changes to reduce the impact of international IP traffic on domestic IP traffic that addresses the root cause of the 17 March incident.

The second outcome relates to increased investment in our network monitoring and tools.

In any highly sophisticated world class network like ours there will always be disruptions which is why we use sophisticated tools to help us better detect issues and allow stronger monitoring.

We are going to make even further investments in this area to take advantage of some of the most cutting edge technology becoming available.

We will be specifically introducing more real time traffic monitoring along with more real time customer impact reporting.
This will assist in getting better early warning of any traffic patterns in the network that might be a cause for concern.

We will be spending around $25 million on installing this monitoring equipment.

Our third focus relates to improving our recovery time for customers to set a new world standard.

As I mentioned earlier, this is an incredibly large and sophisticated network and we can never give a guarantee that disruptions won’t occur from time to time.

While our focus on the highest levels of reliability will continue to be relentless, we will also focus on being a world leader in the time to recovery when the unexpected happens.

Essentially when a disruption occurs mobile users need to be re-registered or reconnected back onto the network. When large numbers of mobiles are trying to reconnect at the same time there can be a delay in people being able to access the network.

This is a common challenge for networks around the world – to ensure there is enough capacity in the network so that those reconnections take as little time as possible.

As a result, we are investing an additional $25 million increasing our capacity to handle a large number of re-registrations occurring simultaneously.

What this means is that in the event of a disconnection, a much larger number of customers will be able to re-register at the same time so any disruption to services will be of a much shorter duration.

So what does all of this mean in relation to our network strength?

Overall, the review – and our free data days – have reinforced to us the strength and resilience of our network.

Dave Williams, a highly experienced telecommunications executive who has worked with Vodafone, AT&T and Telefonica has been independently reviewing our network and believes it is world class – from both an engineering and an operations perspective.

He has told us we are one of a small number of world class networks around the world.

Mr Williams is here with us today and will join me on stage for Q&A shortly.

I strongly believe that what we’re doing now, as a result of that review, particularly in terms of network recovery, will enable us to set new global benchmarks.

I would like to take some time now to talk to you about why we are still Australia’s best network

As I mentioned earlier, it is Australia’s largest mobile network – our 4G network alone now reaches 97% of the population and will reach 98% by June this year and 99% by June 2017.

Our commitment to investment in expansion of the network for all Australians is demonstrated in the very significant contribution and allocated share of the Federal Government’s Black Spot program.

Following the blackspots rollout, we will increase our overall footprint to more than 2.5m square kilometres, which we believe is around double that of our next nearest competitor.

Our customers enjoy Australia’s fastest mobile speeds, based on a national average of 3G and 4G speeds.

We will continue with our program of world firsts, leading the development of new technologies in Australia:
• Last year we achieved 2 world-first mobile speed milestones using our new LTE-Advanced capabilities, and launched Australia’s first Voice over LTE service which allows users to experience high definition voice quality and faster call connection times;
• This year we are working towards achieving peak network speeds of 1Gbps in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane CBDs, and will launch ‘Voice over WiFi’ and ‘Video over LTE’ as well;
• We are also driving towards next generation standards in the Internet of Things with support of the Cat 1 standard in the network and our plans for Cat-M and Narrow Band-IoT support later this year;
• We are building our network ready for the future demands of media and content and are at the forefront of developing new architectures for Content Delivery and new enabling technologies such as LTE Broadcast (LTE-B); and you may have seen the announcement from our Head of Networks in London last week where we have joined a consortium of other operators staying ahead of the game in LTE B;
• Finally, we are already active in our contributions towards the 5G standards and in 2018, we will trial 5G on the Gold Coast.

Like any of our global peers there will always be issues that arise in such a large and sophisticated technology environment, and our customers’ demand for data and connectivity will continue to rise exponentially every day as well.

I am personally determined to rebuild the trust our customers have in us by meeting, if not exceeding, those expectations every day.

We are absolutely committed to retaining our position as Australia’s best mobile network and we will continue to focus on innovative ways to deliver to a world class standard.

Thank you for the opportunity to update you today.

 

 

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