Hemant Arora and Kaustav Ghosh describe the advantages for telecom to switch over to a new and more flexible system.Over the last five years, India has witnessed a rapid increase in the number of wireless subscribers. And in order to cater to this increasing demand, the telecom networks have also grown in size and complexity witnessing a growth rate of 30 per cent and a telecom tower base of around four lakh towers in the country today. With the increase in size and complexity, the management of these networks through traditional network operating centre (NOC) is becoming difficult with each passing day. The network management approach so far has been reactive, as the engineers in NOC monitor the alarms and act on them only after the event has occurred. Additionally, the existing NOC set-up is not technology- and vendor-agnostic; there have been instances when vendors or technology-specific clusters being formed, working in silos. Because of this disparate process, it is difficult to form an integrated reporting view. In the current environment, the approach is not suitable as it leads to considerable network downtimes, affecting customers’ experience and impacting business.In order to mitigate these challenges, new technologies and systems are evolving. These emerging solutions will use real-time network performance and environment data for the management of networks. It would also use patterns and association mapping techniques to extract the patterns which usually precede a network failure. Based on these patterns, it will be possible to form rules and perform a predictive analysis to forecast the future network issues.Ideally, these should be technology- and vendor-agnostic, allowing for the integration of various technology/vendor devices and hence their management through a single platform. Use of a single platform will allow for the same key performance indicators (KPIs) to be monitored across various systems and hence helps the management in taking actions based on the current network performance and issues.As these NOCs graduate to the next generation, they will be able to use real time monitoring data.Along with the predictive analysis techniques, it will provide the management with more intelligent and powerful information that will help managers in identifying potential issues and thereby reduce inefficiencies. For example, a next-gen NOC will be able identify high temperatures as the reason for the network equipment failure, which was coupled with no power availability and empty diesel tank.So to avoid such cases, NOC will constantly monitor these parameters which alone or in tandem with other parameters could cause a network failure. This increased intelligence will provide for more efficient management of networks, reduce downtimes and help in better deployment of field manpower.These NOC applications could also be integrated with other operation and support subsystems such as GIS application, asset tracking, work force management system which helps in performing analysis on this data and getting important business insights. These business insights could be presented to the management in the form of various dashboards which are customised according to the needs of the business users. These dashboards and reports could be made accessible via various channels web portals, via tablet PCs while on the move. This will help in reducing the time required to take a decision regarding a network issue hence help in improving operating effectiveness.These next-gen NOCs will be able to provide better monitoring and access control mechanisms through the use of various technologies such as CCTV etc, which minimises human intervention required for maintenance activities. Hence, they will also help in optimising the network operations cost.Predictive monitoring: Next-gen NOCs should be able to use pattern mapping techniques for identifying the various patterns that precede network failures. Based on this it should continuously monitor the various parameters for these patterns and perform a predictive analysis identifying the potential issues and the devices affected. It should help in better resource optimization and reduced network downtimes the information on the issues which would affect the network is already made available.Intelligent infrastructure management: Next-gen NOC should be able to continuously monitor the various parameters such as humidity, temperature, wind speed, equipment status, etc. that could adversely affect equipment operation and would take proactive steps using this information. For example, an NOC should be able to constantly monitor the wind speed for all the cell sites and if it exceeds a certain threshold so as to affect the line of sight of microwave link antennas, it should immediately inform the field technician for taking proactive action.Integrated reporting platform: Next-gen NOC applications for performance management, fault management, ticket management etc, should allow seamless integration with equipment from various vendors which will allow for common processes and KPIs across systems and hence allow the management to have a single view of the network issues and performance. As the data from various sources is consolidated, it will allow for performing business analytics and getting insights on the various factors that affect the network.Efficient energy management: Power availability still remains one of the key concerns affecting the network operations. Hence, operators have little choice but to use other sources of energy such as diesel generators, solar energy etc.These sources of energy are usually very costly as compared to the power available from grids. So it becomes very important to use these sources efficiently as these could negatively affect the operational cost. Through the use of various parameters, next-gen NOC should also address the issues related to efficient energy management such as:• Monitoring the temperature in cell shelters based onwhich it automatically switches on/off the air conditioners resulting in considerable energy savings.• Based on network and equipment load, automatically shut down certain equipment which may not be required in low load situations.• Continuously monitoring the fuel level, captures events like tank filling etc and generates real time alarms in case of abnormal behaviour which helps in curbing incidents like fuel pilferage.Advanced access control: Because of inefficient access control mechanisms, many cases of unscrupulous elements having gained access to physical sites and stealing important assets, eg, battery cells etc are encountered at many places. In order to control this next-gen NOC should employ advanced access control mechanisms such as biometric access control, CCTV cameras to control and monitor access to the physical cell sites. It should ensure that only authorised personnel get physical access to the cell sites. Through the use of CCTV NOC personnel can also track the field technicians’ activities and can also provide them L2 whenever needed.In summary, with new technologies rollout, expansion to rural areas and increased need of automation and cost optimisation, making network operating centres smart and agile is the way forward.Arora is Associate Director—Telecom and Ghosh is Advisor Consulting at PwC India.