Vodacom launches RAN mobile recovery solution

South Africa's dominant operator Vodacom has successfully launched and tested its Radio Access Network (RAN) Mobile Recovery Solution, claiming to be the first time an African operator has successfully deployed such a solution.

The mobile recovery solution comprises two mobile data centres on wheels, and gives Vodacom the ability to restore functionality at any of its Mobile Telephone Exchange (MTX) sites - which link RAN base stations to Vodacom's core network - within 48 hours.

The operator said the solution is a major step in ensuring the company is prepared for any unexpected network crises.

"We call this type a "hole-in-the-ground" recovery solution because it's used in the very unlikely event that our entire facility's functionality completely disappears. These mobile data centres effectively allow us to recover our site within 48 hours instead of the two years it typically takes to build a new MTX site," said Beverly Ngwenya, Network Engineering Officer at Vodacom.

To test the solution, Vodacom was required to simulate the recovery of its Midrand MTX site, which provides connectivity to hundreds of thousands of customers in the southern and central parts of South Africa's Gauteng province. The company said the test was successful, and there was no loss of service experienced.

"I'm extremely pleased that everything ran smoothly and we reported no loss of service. This is due to the level of skill and dedication of the project team. Their hard work has resulted in a solution that not only ensures we are prepared in the event of a major crisis but also embeds our position as the leader in constant connectivity," said Vodacom's Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport.

Two mobile recovery solutions have been built, one servicing the northern and one the southern parts of the country. Each solution features complete power backup with on-board generators, fire suppression, air conditioning, raised flooring, building management systems, security systems, and network equipment.

Vodacom said improving network resilience has been a key focus of the operator's development efforts, and form a central part of the ZAR22.5 billion investment programme Vodacom has been working on over the past three years.

"We spend a lot of time making sure our network is as resilient as it can possibly be. In fact the majority of our infrastructure is built to be geo-located meaning functionality can be picked up by another site based somewhere else in the country if necessary. Most times this happens without the customer even knowing something is wrong. With the MTX sites this is not possible. However, with today's solution in place I am confident we are as prepared for any eventuality as we can possibly be," said Delport.

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