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Summer 2006
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Qatar Telecommunications Streamlines Network Expansion and Maintenance with GIS

Automating Facilities Management GIS Schematic Generation

Esri ServicesPretend for a moment that you're an engineer at a large telecommunications company and you've been notified that there's been a break in service that affects 12 square miles of the city. You need to examine the landline network for the most likely location of the break. Unfortunately, your only recourse is to examine the hundreds of paper drawings showing the network for the area. The drawings are to scale (tied to geography), so devices are crowded together and become almost indecipherable where the density of housing is high. Furthermore, some of the drawings are out of date. This was the type of problem that confronted engineers at Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel) until February of this year.

Qtel is the exclusive telecommunications provider in the state of Qatar and serves a country with a population of approximately 863,000 people. The company offers a full array of telecommunications services, including wireless and wireline voice communications and Internet and cable television services.

Background

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A portion of a straight-line pressurized cable record diagram showing the location of gas valves along the route.
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Original manual record—compare with screen image above.

The government of Qatar has a long-standing history of forward-thinking GIS investments based on Esri's technology. Through Qatar's Centre for GIS, the government encourages and facilitates spatial data sharing and interagency cooperation among Qatari organizations, enterprises, and government entities. The Centre for GIS provides a rich and thorough national basemap and a robust framework for communication among GIS working groups in the country.

To improve the efficiency of its operations, Qtel has been automating its facilities management over the past few years, including its planning and engineering operations. The company had already acquired basemaps of the entire country and maps of many of the key components of the infrastructure from the Centre for GIS. It was also using Telcordia Network Engineer, an ArcGIS software-based product from Esri Business Partner Telcordia (Piscataway, New Jersey), to manage the data.

With its early and full investment in Esri products, Qtel saw Esri's Professional Services was a natural fit in the automation of its engineering operations. Accordingly, in November 2004, Qtel contracted with Mannai Trading Company, Esri's distributor in Qatar, with Esri and Telcordia as subcontractors, for the development of software based on Network Engineer and ArcGIS Schematics that would make network planning and maintenance easier. The team was chosen for reasons including the standardization on Esri technology by the GIS steering committee in Qatar and the ability to integrate Esri software with legacy systems.

Software Capabilities

Prior to the implementation of ArcGIS Schematics, Telcordia's services group oversaw the implementation of the current version of its Network Engineer application, which is based on ArcGIS Desktop software. Network Engineer is a geospatial telecommunications network management tool that provides an environment for the comprehensive design, documentation, and management of the physical network and its associated inventory. A set of custom tools was developed to meet specific Qtel requirements, and data was collected for the entire country's fiber and copper network features for loading to an ArcSDE geodatabase on Oracle9i.

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Close-up of a main distribution frame exchange element in an exchange-side diagram detailing the allocated pairs. Duct plan is generated in the schematic.
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Original manual record—compare with screen image above.

The consolidation of source data in a single repository, the GIS database, offers Qtel an advantage over traditional systems. The engineering effort is a fixed overhead activity that ends with the alteration of the database, and the ability to derive schematic products directly from the database means that the schematic update lag time is essentially eliminated, as is the introduction of error during the subsequent update of the diagrams.

Customizing

The generic, open-ended ArcGIS Schematics was customized specifically for Qtel during the project. These customizations fell into three general categories: work order system integration, custom layout algorithms, and re-creation and automation of standardized Qtel schematic diagram marginalia. In the first case, the software was integrated with the Network Engineer work order system. The integration allowed Qtel to create "snapshots" in time of relevant schematics for each of the various phases of a work order, providing a step-wise schematic view of the life of the work orders. Another related custom routine allowed Qtel to display all the schematics related to a single GIS feature; that is, it is possible to access both new ArcGIS Schematics software-generated diagrams and legacy, scanned schematics from a single GIS feature. As with the attachment of snapshots to work orders, this capability offered great value by providing continuity from the old system to the new one and by providing access to schematics at the click of a button.

The second customization area, layout algorithms, provided automated routines to place and arrange elements in the schematic diagrams in keeping with the aesthetics of existing Qtel schematic drawings.

Finally, the marginalia automation customizations allow the user to quickly embed schematic diagrams in a standardized Qtel layout template to develop a rich and attractive hard-copy product. The customizations automatically populate the title bar and unique identifier information; provide a list of the diagram's contents; and, most important, build a chronological list of the work order history of all elements in the diagram. This provides the modern equivalent of the legacy diagrams' update logs, which were previously maintained by draftsmen as they manually updated the diagrams.

"Our telecommunications processes advance by extending the number of important operations we can perform with GIS technology," says Krishna Kumar, Qtel senior GIS analyst. "GIS frees us from some of the constraints associated with earlier processes and saves us time, making customer service and workflow faster."

More Information

For more information, contact Krishna Kumar, Qatar Telecommunications (e-mail: krishnak@qtel.com.qa, tel.: 974-440-0315), or Will Chesser, Esri (e-mail: wchesser@esri.com; tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1-2065).

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