Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world head to the holy city of Mecca for the religious Hajj pilgrimage. The vast densities of people concentrated in a single area causes sudden spikes in network traffic, which makes managing a telecom network an insurmountable challenge.
Nokia Siemens has partnered with Saudi Telecom Company (STC) since 2001 to manage their network during the Hajj week and the holy month of Ramadan, and with Zain since 2007. This year, Zain experienced a explosive growth in the number of subscribers, as well as volume of data and voice traffic. STC too experienced a leap in the number of MMS and IGW traffic.
To meet the high demands of network traffic, first line maintenance and network monitoring teams are deployed very quickly, and the network is geared up to handle high traffic generated by pilgrims moving in three different areas. To complicate an already daunting challenge, the Network Implementation team has a very small time window to work in. Coping with such overwhelming high-density traffic in such a confined geographical space requires robust equipment and reliable performance under critical conditions, especially in the radio network.
Ehab Badawi, Project Manager, Nokia Siemens Customer Team for STC, said ” The biggest achievement, which was even recognized by our customer, was the resilience of the team to ensure that network performance was not hampered by the heavy rains that struck parts of Saudi Arabia. During this time, our teams monitored network traffic movement and made the necessary adjustments, while our field teams worked round-the-clock to recover affected sites.”
Khaled Juma, Project Manager, Nokia Siemens Customer Team for Zain added, “The biggest challenge was implementing, managing and monitoring the newly introduced concept of ‘MSS Pooling’. This was the first time it was implemented on such a huge scale and within less than 5 days. We were able to resolve it through precise, hourly monitoring and dynamic fine tuning (on need to need basis) of the MSS traffic in the three main areas – Mecca, Mina and Arafat.”
The amazing aspect of this implementation is, every year after the Hajj pilgrimage, 90% of the network is drawn down and goes off air. And the next year, we get started all over again. Hajj 2011, here we come.
This post is by Carlyle Fernandez from our MEA team.