Telcos set up war rooms to monitor networks during Covid-19 crisis


Vodafone IdeaNSE -1.54 % Limited (VIL), Bharti AirtelNSE -4.62 % and RelianceNSE -0.06 % Jio Infocomm have deployed senior technical staff and smart hands at their network management war rooms to closely monitor critical operations and ensure uninterrupted mobile and broadband services amid the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

The telecom operators have made temporary food and stay arrangements at their data centres and made vehicles available to facilitate movement of technical staff to the sites.

The three private telcos have obtained approvals from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to ensure critical workers manning their network operating centres (NoCs) – the brains of any mobile communications network – can freely travel amid the pandemic-induced countrywide lockdowns to resolve network-related glitches at a time when bulk of corporate staff across India is working from home.

Approvals have also been obtained for vehicles stocked with diesel to move freely to support tower sites in case of power cuts in a particular location to ensure 24 x 7 telecom connectivity.

“We have set up virtual war rooms where key team members are participating through concalls and videoconferences,” VIL’s chief technical officerVishant Vora told ET. “Senior team members from operations, circles, our super network operating centre (SNOC) and partners are continuously on call with field to ensure (network) uptime and operational continuity.”

VIL’s flagship SNOC in Pune and Hyderabad, he said, is the nerve centre of all 22 circles, with centralised monitoring and control of the company’s mobile network, ensuring business continuity with geo-redundancy. “Our enterprise services also continue to be monitored through the SNOC to ensure business continuity,” Vora said, adding that the company is constantly monitoring traffic patterns and is confident of handling growing demand for voice and data services during the lockdown.

Bharti Airtel’s networks are in business continuity planning (BCP) mode and geared to respond to any exigency, said a company executive, who did not wish to be identified. The telco has also activated distributed command centres to monitor and manage networks from multiple locations in case any centre is inaccessible for some time.

Another senior telco executive however said that due to gaps in information flows, the company has faced some issues in the field owing to police restrictions, despite government orders specifying telecom operations as an essential service. “These issues are being handled with support from senior police officers and other government agencies,” he said.

Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said crisis management teams of telcos are running continuous checks on potential network failure points, ensuring mission critical sensors in cell towers and telecom gear are fully functional to provide advanced alerts about any network related mal-functions within any licensed area. The COAI represents VIL, Bharti Airtel and Jio Infocomm.

Mathews said network war rooms staff at every telco are also monitoring all critical links connecting fibre and microwave networks to their NOCs to ensure smooth operations.

Telcos, he said, had also created special teams with support from their vendor partners to tackle multi-level escalation challenges, depending on the severity of a network-related problem.