Mobitex Technology - Solutions - Case study

Telia, Sweden

Swedish network operator Telia took the initiative in developing the first Mobitex network. The company is a strong believer in Mobitex technology and uses it extensively in its own operations in a field service application called Mobiflex. By its own estimates, Telia saves millions each year thanks to Mobiflex.

Sweden: Telia practices what it preaches

The Mobiflex field service application, which is now owned by Telia Network Support, has a long history. Originally developed as a simple application for dispatching work orders to service technicians, Mobiflex has been enhanced and extended over the years and is now an extremely sophisticated application with many functions and extensive interfaces to Telia's other data systems.

For its relatively small population of 8.5 million inhabitants, Sweden is a large country with many sparsely populated areas. In many regions, particularly in Northern Sweden, Telia's service technicians are responsible for an area covering several hundred square kilometers. Traveling back to a central dispatching office for the next work order is simply not an option.

Luckily, the Mobitex network in Sweden offers almost total geographical coverage, even in the country's most remote areas. For Telia, using Mobitex to dispatch orders to field service technicians was a no-brainer. Using Mobiflex, service orders could be dispatched directly to the service vehicles and returned after completion to the central system.

Self-managed teams
A new twist was added with Mobiflex, however. Instead of trying to track the position of field service technicians and plan order dispatching, Telia decided to let its technicians take responsibility for planning their own work. Service orders are thus posted and made available in the field to every technician, who is then able to choose the work order closest to his or her current location and proceed to the customer site.

This means that field service personnel almost never have to report in to a central office. Their workday begins when they walk out the door and get into their vehicles. Service orders, many of which have been automatically generated by network monitoring systems that have detected faults, are immediately available in the vehicle. Not surprisingly, Telia has discovered that Mobiflex has reduced the number of persons required for dispatching by 50 percent. Thanks to more efficient utilization of resources, Mobiflex also reduces field personnel by 20 percent, as well as significantly reducing the number of miles traveled.

"These are very significant benefits for us," says Tommy Hoffberg at Telia Network Services. "Today we simply wouldn't be able to work without Mobiflex. Our technicians would scream if we took it away. With Mobiflex, they have become self-managed teams that work much more efficiently."

Mobiflex pinpoints faults
Enhancements of Mobiflex include reporting functions that reduce personnel administration, as well as a variety of network services that allow technicians to work more efficiently. Lunch breaks can be scheduled by the technician according to his or her schedule. Because the technician is able to choose work assignments in advance, automated testing can also be performed before traveling to the customer and the results delivered to the vehicle.

Armed with this information, the technician can correct faults more quickly. In many cases, Telia's systems allow the technician to order tests that extend all the way down to the local subscriber loop. Test results can then be printed out in the vehicle and then studied, perhaps during lunch or over a cup of coffee. Once the fault has been pinpointed, the technician can often proceed directly to the location of the equipment in need of repair.

"Automating our work in this manner and extending the power of network monitoring systems to field service technicians has taken a long time to develop," says Tommy Hoffberg. "Of course, we know what information is available in our systems and what information is most useful to the technician in the field. Gathering information from many different systems and getting it out to Mobiflex, however, was a challenge."

Safety for solitary workers
The Mobiflex function that is perhaps most appreciated by users is the alarm function. In most cases, field service technicians work alone, many times in remote areas. Their work may also include climbing poles or towers or servicing equipment in locations where high-voltages are present. Working alone in such a potentially hazardous environment is not a prospect that anyone relishes or that Swedish labor laws encourage. In fact, without the alarm function, Telia would be required by law to use two-man crews on such jobs.

With Mobiflex, the solution was a simple but extremely useful alarm function, which includes a GPS receiver in the vehicle for accurate positioning information. When the technician leaves the service vehicle, a small transmitter is carried in a pocket, which can send an alarm back to a receiver in the vehicle that is connected to the Mobiflex terminal. When the bearer of the alarm transmitter presses a button, an alarm will be generated and sent out via Mobitex that includes the user's position.

The alarm is received at Telia within about 45 seconds. No more than 60 seconds later, an SOS Alarm Center has been notified and begins dispatching rescue services. In most cases, a vehicle is on its way in less than five minutes from the time the button was pressed on the alarm transmitter.

Short pay-back time
With the Mobiflex application, Tommy Hoffberg admits that his organization has stuck out its collective neck. "We have put the pressure on ourselves by guaranteeing 24-hour service times throughout the country," he notes. "With Mobiflex, we know that we have the support that we need to guarantee this level of service, and for Telia in an increasingly deregulated market, this is extremely important for increasing customer satisfaction."

Although greater customer satisfaction is the most important benefit, Mobiflex also pays for itself. "The pay-back time for Mobiflex is a mere 1.2 years," notes Tommy, who adds that this very short pay-back time was achieved despite the fact that a more powerful portable PC than required by the application was chosen in order to increase computer skills among Telia's technicians.

With such powerful incentives in terms of improved quality of service, substantial cost savings and short pay-back times, Telia continues to enhance the Mobiflex system. Over the next two or three years, the entire application will be migrated to Telia's intranet and given a web interface. In the meantime, Mobiflex proves that for Mobitex operators who practice what they preach, the benefits are impressive.

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