When most of us take out our mobile phones to make a call, check emails, browse the internet or download an app, we take it for granted that the mobile network will work. We can have this blind faith thanks to some very clever work being done by the University of Adelaide’s start-up company, TelAri, in partnership with Telstra.
The outcome of the collaboration is a nifty ‘mobile network dimensioning tool’, which indicates the general health of the Telstra mobile network and ensures the corporation can make smart network investment decisions. Associate Professor Bruce Northcote, Director of the University’s Teletraffic Research Centre, said the tool allows the network operator – in this case Telstra – to make network predictions based on end-user experience, rather than simple network measurements.
The project began some eight years ago – when Telstra began to roll out its 3G network – with a detailed analysis of Telstra’s network component vendor, Ericsson. From this, researchers were able to understand how Ericsson assigned resources to different types of uses, such as phone calls, web browsing and so on. They assessed hundreds and thousands of calls and the tool – known as ‘Devil’, as in ‘the devil is in the detail’ – is now able to use live data to drive network decision making. It provides accurate trend reporting, allowing Telstra to schedule upgrades before network capacity is reached, thus leading to greater customer satisfaction.
The prototype took about nine months to develop. When Telstra brought in the 4G network, it took about two and a half years to complete the modelling for this new network. This shows how far mobile technology has come in that time, and the growth in its complexity.
The partnership between Telstra and the Teletraffic Research Centre is long-standing, and in 1987 Telecom Australia (now Telstra) granted the Teletraffic Research Centre status as a Centre of Excellence in Teletraffic Engineering. The two organisations have had a relationship ever since and have kept pace with change. This mobile network dimensioning tool has operated throughout the introduction of the iPhone and other smart phone technologies, and has lasted through 10 upgrades of Ericsson’s network system.
Associate Professor Northcote gave credit to Telstra for driving innovation, adding that Telstra was considered the highest quality network in Australia. What’s more, Telstra estimates the Devil tool has made its capital expenditure program some tens of percent more efficient, and led to significant savings in operational expenditure. The Devil tool has been so successful that in 2012, Hong Kong mobile operator CSL introduced the tool to its network.
Adelaide Research & Innovation, which has licensed the technology back from Telstra to commercialise it on the global stage, has engaged Ascom (an international provider of wireless communications solutions) to act as a distribution partner. Associate Professor Northcote said the relationship with Telstra, and this project in particular, has always been commercially focused, and as a result is a commercial success.
“Over the years, research has needed to become more focused on the bottom line and adapt to changes in the university sector,” he said. It is safe to say that the partnership between Telstra and the University of Adelaide is one example of two organisations working collaboratively to drive innovation that benefits not only them, but the community at large.