All together now

All together now

Nigel Brown

Nigel Brown

Nigel Brown, director at specialist in test equipment, Microlease, on controlling the tipping point of mobile networks.

It has been widely reported that December 2009 saw the tipping point for mobile networks, when data traffic worldwide exceeded voice calls in terms of bandwidth. Forecasts are that data traffic is set to double each year over the next five years.

As a recent commentator put it, we have had the financial crunch, now we have the capacity crunch. Smartphones have become business tools for all, and that eats up data traffic. And one of the biggest consumers of mobile data bandwidth is the desire to stay in touch via social networks like Facebook.

Crunch time

That all combines to set a daunting challenge for the UK’s mobile industry in expanding capacity in time for the Olympics in mid 2012. According to the Olympic Delivery Authority 300,000 visitors a day – spectators and competitors – will flock to the main site in east London. The chances of some of those taking pictures and video clips, and wanting to post them on Facebook is, I would suggest, quite high.
For the organisers of the Olympics, inevitably security is at the top of the agenda. And at the top of the security agenda is mobile communications, and emergency planning cannot be at the mercy of multiple Facebook status changes. So the pressure is on the networks, and their contractors, to rapidly expand the infrastructure to support this massive demand for data capacity.

Given the closely defined timescales – the Olympics will open on 27 July 2012, come what may – then the project teams behind the infrastructure have to get it right first time. Which means adhering to the highest technical standards, and testing and checking every step of the way.

Test and measurement equipment is never considered a glamorous part of any project, but it is vital, particularly for a project under time pressure. The right tools need to be in the right places: waiting for an instrument, shared between different teams, to arrive puts an additional load on the work programme.


Top requirements

The top requirements for test equipment are that it measures the right parameters in the right way, and that it does so accurately. That means that individual instruments need to be updated regularly with the latest software, and more importantly routinely recalibrated against known standards.

That is why, as a general rule of thumb, the cost of ownership of a piece of test gear doubles its original purchase price, through calibration, maintenance, repair and upgrades. That continuing operational cost continues whether the unit is in use or not: a contractor might buy a test instrument for a project, then leave it on the shelf for months or more until the next similar project comes along.

The solution is to rent the right tools when you need them. The engineer gets the right tools to hand, and the contractor’s financial director eliminates capital tied up in equipment that still costs money even when sitting on the shelf.

Rental costs are transparent and can be built into the contract price, allowing the business to stay competitive and deliver to specification first time, not least so that those lucky enough to experience the London Olympics first hand can tell their friends all about it.

Microlease is a specialist in test equipment. Since 1979 it hasbeen helping users lower their costs and improve efficiency by providing equipment and services which make things easy, quick and cost effective.

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