Meet the three storey tall switchboard-operator keeping Vodafone Egypt customers connected.
There is something incredibly nostalgic about watching black and white movies showing a switchboard operator at work. They are often portrayed as the centrepiece of a town, connecting one person to another.
Nowadays the switchboard is still at the heart of a mobile network, but given the much greater range of services – calls, data and SMS – it requires a far more extensive, and automated, system called a Mobile Telephone Exchange (MTX).
The MTX manages all customer calls and data requests. On average each MTX serves one million customers within a defined geographical area at any one time, although they have the capability and capacity to manage traffic from up to five million active customers.
In Egypt the amount of mobile data being used by our customers has been growing by over 20% per quarter over the past two years. As a result the business needed to quickly and cost effectively increase the number of MTX units in its network, particularly in highly populated regions, without losing any of the resiliency.
That was a challenge for the engineering team. An MTX can take one to two years to build. With the speed at which our customers are adopting mobile data we needed a faster solution than that.
Engineers stand in front of the new prefabricated MTX
The new prefabricated MTX
In Egypt, because of the extensive increase in mobile data consumption, the business needed to quickly and cost effectively increase the number of MTX units in its network, particularly in highly populated regions, without losing any of the resiliency.
Our customers mobile data consumption has been growing by over 20% per quarter in the past two years.
Normally an MTX would be built where it is to be deployed. In a recent deployment in the Nile Delta region, the country’s most highly populated area where a high percentage of mobile traffic is concentrated, we tried something different. We decided to prefabricate an MTX instead. This meant manufacturing and testing the component parts of the MTX in advance then sending them from the factory in containers ready to just be connected together at the site.
We designed the new MTX, and set up the industrial processes and machinery in the factory, so that everything would be replicable. Our prefabricated MTX will not be a one off – building more, even if different sized units are required, will be straightforward and rapid.
The design of this MTX is state of the art in utilising the space efficiently to accommodate Vodafone network requirements. For the Nile Delta, our team created a 400 m2 three storey building that was ready to ship in three months and operational in six.
The MTX was designed to be robust and resilient enough to ensure the reliability and availability of the Vodafone services served by the MTX.
The newly designed MTX also has capacity to enable Vodafone Egypt to install new technology when additional services are introduced.
The prefabricated MTX may not be as personable as the traditional switchboard operator (although the team of engineers who work there are very friendly), but it represents a great option to ensure that Vodafone’s customers in Egypt and other markets remain constantly connected as the demand for mobile data and services in our markets continues to grow.
About the authors:
Ettore Genta is responsible for creating strategies and design blueprints for new core network sites, as well as plans to optimise existing sites. He has worked for Vodafone for 17 years in a number of technology roles, having started his career at Omnitel, which is now Vodafone Italy.
Ahmed Abdelwahab is responsible for development of MTX sites in Egypt as well as optimising existing sites in terms of energy efficiency and site/network resiliency. He has worked for Vodafone for 15 years in a number of technology roles.
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