Optus looks to spend $1.5m on transportable 4G small cells – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus is set to invest $1.5 million in a fleet of transportable small cells that are lighter and easier to deploy in disaster zones than the telco’s current fleet of satellite cells on trailers or SatCats.
The telco revealed the planned investment in its latest sustainability report [pdf], saying that the small cells could help it provide “a more effective response to natural disasters and emergencies.” 
“Our disaster management fleet utilises SatCats (a satellite cell on a trailer that uses satellite transmissions for coverage in a limited range, without the need for infrastructure),” it said.
“During calendar 2019, our operations team explored the use of rapid deployment mobile solutions for disaster management and as a result, our current fleet of four SatCats may be complemented by an additional investment of $1.5 million on small cells. 
“Small cells are lighter, easier to transport, provide instant access to the 4G platform and are cheaper than SatCats. 
“This investment will strengthen our disaster response capabilities by rapidly deploying mobile coverage solutions to affected zones.”
Optus showed a side-by-side image of a SatCat and transportable small cell; the latter is considerably less bulky.

Optus said in a separate submission to a federal bushfire inquiry that it deployed its existing SatCats in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia during the most recent summer bushfire crisis.
Automation drive continues
The sustainability report provides additional information on Optus’ three-year adoption of intelligent automation technologies.
It – for the first time – properly describes the function of a bot called TARA that was developed during a recent hackathon process.
“The Talent Acquisition team aimed to use automation to help them and their leaders recruit talent more effectively,” Optus said.
“TARA (Talent Acquisition Robot Assistant) will scan thousands of resumes for keywords and phrases to allow categorisation, allowing the team to deal with people more than paperwork.”
Optus also said its iAutomate centre of excellence, IT and robotic process automation (RPA) teams across its consumer, Optus wholesale and networks divisions had “set up a new Robotics Operation Centre (ROC)”.
The ROC would be used to centally “monitor, govern, operate and support our digital workforce of more than 150 RPA bots, ensuring our automation practice is sustainable, adheres to regulation and policies, and meets our evolving needs.”

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Optus, Telstra to build 21 new mobile towers in regional NSW – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Telstra and Optus will build 21 new mobile phone towers in southern NSW using a $50 million fund established by the state government to improve internet connectivity in under-served regions
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro on Monday said the towers would deliver “faster and more reliable wireless broadband internet” in the state’s South East region.
Almost half the 11 areas set to benefit from the new towers fall within Barilaro’s electorate, including Bungendore, Carwoola, Michelago and Royalla, while a number of others sit just outside.
The towers will be delivered in partnership with Optus and Telstra, though the wireless broadband service will be delivered by rural communications carrier Yless4U.
Yless4U is a private company that claims to specialise in providing rural broadband services in South Eastern NSW.
The telco also provides consulting services to governments in the “design, business case development and deployment of regional/rural and remote telecommunications infrastructure”.
The towers – the majority of which will be delivered by Optus – will be funded out of the government’s $50 million ‘connecting country communities fund’.
The fund was announced in October 2017 to bankroll the creation or expansion of small telcos in regional and rural areas.
“This funding will contribute to a significant improvement in internet connectivity speeds that will reach more than double current speeds by September 2021, and further improve by May 2025,” Barilaro said on Monday. 
“This will improve safety, boost opportunities for businesses, increase community access to services, connect family and friends, and ensure younger residents can access the online educational resources they need.”
The government also provided an additional $400 million in the lead up to last year’s election to fund the creation of additional mobile blackspot towards a separate ‘regional digital connectivity package’.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the funding, which is being delivered by both the recently introduced Department of Regional NSW and the NSW Telco Authority, would help strengthen communities.
“This funding will enhance existing assets including towers, land, fibre and backhaul as well as building new infrastructure to enable communities to be better connected,” he said, adding that reliable internet was more important than ever.
The full list of areas set to benefit from the new towers are:

Bungendore 
Carwoola
Collector 
Googong 
Gundaroo 
Gunning 
Michelago
Murrumbateman
Royalla
Tarago
Wallaroo

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Optus to deploy software-defined satellite in 2023 – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus has struck a deal with Airbus Defence and Space to launch a Ku-band software-defined satellite called Optus 11 in 2023.
The telco said in a statement that the launch will make it the “first satellite operator in Asia Pacific to launch a software-defined satellite that can provide both flexible concurrent broadcast and broadband services via a very high throughput satellite (VHTS) design.”
“The game-changing satellite is fully configurable in space, meaning its location, coverage, bandwidth and capacity can be changed in orbit as customer demands evolve,” Optus said.
“Traditional satellites are limited by on-ground configurations that cannot be altered after launch.”
In addition to being used for broadcast media – Optus revised an agreement with Sky NZ to be the “cornerstone customer” for Optus 11 – the new satellite will also be used for broadband services, backhaul, and to host a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) payload.
SBAS “has the ability to greatly enhance the accuracy and precision of existing GPS and positioning systems across the A/NZ region and pinpoint a location to within a decimetre, without the need for mobile or internet coverage,” Optus noted.
When launched, Optus will have six of its own satellites in orbit.
Optus said the new satellite will also make it “the first operator in the world to utilise the Ku band (11-14GHz) spectrum for the software defined VHTS in both broadcast and broadband services.”
Optus presently provides satellite services to Australia and NZ Government departments, companies and broadcasters including Foxtel, ABC, SBS, Seven Network, and other regional broadcasters.

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Optus commits to digital core upgrade – Cloud – Software – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus is set to upgrade its core business systems to SAP’s S/4 HANA, creating a “digital core” that could help it enable new capabilities at the edge like predictive maintenance for cellular towers.
The telco said in a slide deck that it would move from SAP’s ERP central component (ECC) to S/4 HANA.
It did not reveal a timeline for the migration, though it appears to be early in the process, having spent part of last year refining its engagement model with SAP and workshopping innovation opportunities that could be included within the overall scope of work.
An Optus spokesperson declined to comment.
“Optus has expanded into a variety of mission critical cloud services and is also moving to digital core with SAP S/4 HANA,” it said in the slides.
“The digital core, powered by SAP, will also provide seamless integration with cloud and other peripheral products to enhance the customer experience.”
Optus indicated the transition to 5G – and eventual operation of 5G at scale – had made “modernisation” of its core IT platform necessary.

The telco also had customer experience (CX) ambitions that it wanted to fulfill, and indicated on an architecture diagram that SAP CX is part of the “future scope” of work.
In addition, it plans to deploy SAP integrated business planning (IBP) and SAP Ariba sourcing and contracts to aid planning around its supply chain.
The initial scoping work performed last year involved “ bringing together a lot of moving parts from SAP to put together an all-encompassing roadmap … to provide a future-proof IT platform that can enable their business transformation,” the slide deck stated.
“One of the other key objectives was to also to ensure ongoing value realisation from existing investments and assets while the new foundation is put in place.”
Also of interest in the slide deck is that it lays out a series of mostly cloud-based products that Optus is said to have evaluated as part of the process so far.
These include SAP blockchain applications and services – the use case is described as “connecting devices and security to prevent counterfeiting”; and SAP IoT and augmented analytics, used to “evaluate early warning signs and predictive maintenance for core infrastructure (towers) and associated analytics”.
Optus declined to elaborate on either use case or the status of the evaluations.

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Optus runs mmWave 5G tests in Sydney – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus is testing 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) technology at four locations in Sydney, months after suggesting the technology could bring speeds in excess of 20Gbps.
The telco said in a statement that it has Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) approval to operate and test mmWave technology using the 26GHz band “at four locations in Sydney, including its Macquarie Park headquarters”.
As part of its tests, the company made a data call with technology partner Ericsson using mmWave customer premises equipment (CPE) made by Casa Systems.
It has also “run extensive testing at its lab facility in Sydney,” it said.
The telco reinforced its interest in using mmWave to serve the enterprise market in the first instance.
“MmWave 5G is the next step in unlocking mass productivity gains through a high-speed wireless communication layer,” Optus Networks managing director Lambo Kanagaratnam said.
“The enterprise market in particular is expected to gain from mmWave, with sectors such as autonomous manufacturing, mining and port operations all examples of industries that will considerably benefit from mmWave 5G and its capability to offer higher speeds.”
A mmWave spectrum auction is currently scheduled for early next year.

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Optus, Cisco launch Tempemail Industry Innovation Network – Strategy – Training & Development – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Cisco and Optus established a new alliance with Curtin University and La Trobe University, combining resources and expertise in digital technologies to support economic resilience and transformation.
The Tempemail Industry Innovation Network (NIIN) serves as a model for industry and universities to collaborate on digital challenges and respond to long-term national interests.
It builds on previous partnerships between the telecommunications companies and the two universities, which included the investment in four research chairs across the institutions covering cyber security, artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT) and software-defined networks.
The four foundation members of the network said it was created to pool collective resources including research chairs, innovation centres, supply chains, partner networks and specialist expertise.
NIIN will also act as both a clearing house for immediate industry challenges, stimulate economic activity and be a vehicle for transforming digital infrastructure.
One of the first projects to be tackled by the NIIN will be a white paper on the role of collaborative technology in remote working, with a specific focus on government, health and education sectors.
Cisco ANZ vice president Ken Boal said the ultimate aim of the network is to make Australia and its industries “more adaptive and resilient,” with the recent responses to the COVID-19 pandemic informing the development of the white paper.
“We can take learnings out of the recent surge in the adoption of collaboration technologies that have enabled remote working, and build on the capability and productivity that’s been realised, to support a more resilient digital economy and society,” Boal said.
Optus Business managing director Chris Mitchell added that the NIIN’s work can help inform governments and peak bodies on critical digital issues such as security, privacy, scalability and usability.
“Australia faces immense health and economic challenges and no single company or university has all the answers,” Mitchell said.
“In combining our technology, expertise and networks, we can create a greater impact together.”
Curtin University vice-chancellor Professor Deborah Terry echoed Mitchell’s comments, adding that previous collaborations demonstrated the value to communities and the economy when industry and universities share resources and expertise.

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DSpark finds govt interest in Optus’ subscriber data – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus mobile subscriber data was used by all levels of government to understand changes in behaviour that corresponded to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The data also proved to be a useful measure of foot traffic during the bushfire crisis last Summer, with the federal-run Tourism Research Australia using it “in preparation for discussions around bushfire recovery initiatives”.
It was reported by The Sydney Morning Herald in April that Vodafone had contributed aggregated and anonymised mobile data on its subscribers to governments to help them understand population movement trends during COVID-19.
The same report quoted Optus as saying it was “working with our Commonwealth and state governments to assist their efforts in navigating our country through these challenging times” though it declined to disclose “the requests [for data] we receive.”
It’s now clear there was government interest in Optus subscriber data, which it combines with third party datasets and packages up via a data mining operation called DSpark Australia.
iTnews first reported on DSpark’s formation back in April 2017, though at the time even the name of the operation was unknown.
DSpark generally has kept a fairly low public profile, though this has changed in the past couple of months as crisis events emerged that proved good use cases for its product.
Country head Paul Rybicki told an SA Government-run event last week that DSpark’s data holdings had found use by all three layers of government.
“How does COVID-19 actually impact the mobility of people? It certainly does by the fact that there are social distancing measures in place, people are working from home, [and] we’re all living that new reality,” he said.
“A lot of this data is now being used at a federal level, state level and even local level with councils, to help understand the changes in behaviour.”

Rybicki did not discuss specific use cases but showed off an Australia-wide – as well as South Australia-specific – snapshot of DSpark’s movement data during the COVID lockdowns.
He said that in general Australians spent more time at home and travelled much shorter distances than usual.
Bushfire recovery
Rybicki provided a more detailed look at how DSpark’s data was used to aid federal understanding of bushfire-affected areas in Australia that were hardest hit from an international tourist perspective.
The data was largely taken from an unlisted video posted by Dspark in mid-March that apparently includes data analysis fed to Tourism Research Australia.

Rybicki confirmed the federal use of this data, noting that it had helped inform authorities about areas in most critical need of financial assistance.
He said DSpark’s data on Kangaroo Island – “a critical tourism spot, in particular for international visitors – [showed] probably one of the highest impacts we saw across our whole country in terms of a tourism region”.
“At its worst in the end of January period, [there was] a decline of nearly 80 percent [international] visitation,” Rybicki said.
“How this was used – Minister [Simon] Birmingham from the federal office of tourism effectively looking at how to allocate recovery funds and how to prioritise that based on actual volume of impact and percentage of impact.
“This sort of data can certainly help with understanding visitation and impact in events like the bushfires.”
Unpacking DSpark
Rybicki said that DSpark sits “very closely to Optus” and had “access to Optus’ customer base” data, which it combined with other third-party datasets.
“We take mobile phone data, we take GPS data from various apps, we look at the roads network, we have some data in on immigration so that we can also look at how people who are from abroad traveling in Australia are moving throughout the country, [and] we ingest public transport information,” he said.
“It’s the power of all of these datasets combined, enhanced, extrapolated that allow us to effectively then see the population moving 24×7.”
“It’s around looking at how people move, looking at data that they generate when they move, seeing where they work, where they live, what trips they make, what modes of transport they take, and being able to apply those insights and that type of information to various problems.”
DSpark has some ties to South Australia, given it and Optus are part of Lot Fourteen, which Rybicki said was “effectively a ‘Silicon Valley’ in South Australia”.
“It will attract lots of exciting businesses and startups and creative minds and ideas, and hopefully it will generate together some really good stuff,” he said.
Rybicki said that the skill set most in-demand in his area of business right now is data engineering, not data science per se.
“It’s less around the analysis and extracting the value, but more around processing raw datasets, bringing them together and extracting attributes out of them, in order to then be able to do the data science on the backend of that. 
“Certainly one observation we’re seeing in the last few years is that data engineering as a function, as a skillset, is more difficult to find and is more difficult to hone.
“It’s certainly in very high demand in businesses like ours and in many other entities who are playing with data or analysing data and using it for insight and action.”

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Curtin Uni to launch 5G research lab with Optus – Strategy – Training & Development – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus and Curtin University have teamed up to use the telco’s nascent 5G network for teaching, research and industry collaboration and establish an on-campus 5G lab.
Optus’ first 5G partnership with a university will also be used to further Curtin’s smart campus initiatives that kicked off in 2017 and increase adoption of emerging technologies like augmented reality by using the high-speed, low-latency network.
Curtin vice-chancellor Deborah Terry said the co-investment builds on the university’s relationship with Optus, which has had a strong focus on data science and applied research into artificial intelligence.
“The lab will give us the space to educate and conceptualise the application of the new technology and enable our students and staff to make substantial contributions to the Australian industry and economy,” she said in a statement.
“Curtin’s new smart campus will allow students to learn new digital skills and experience the power of 5G through practical, hands-on applied research while collaborating with industry.
“We will also be able to better integrate emerging technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence into our teaching and learning programs.”
Importantly for a WA-based institution, the increased connectivity should also help overcome “the tyranny of distance” in delivering remote education and telehealth operations, Terry said.
Optus Business vice president of product innovation Deon Liebenberg said the collaboration with Curtin will be a practical solution to advance 5G developments and use cases across a range of industries including mining, agriculture, health and fossil fuels.
“The technology’s low latency and fast speeds have the capability to transform remote learning and support academic applications of virtual and augmented reality,” he said.
“From virtual lessons and class trips, to advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and medical training – the potential of 5G in education is enormous and we’re excited to explore its future alongside Curtin.”
Optus’ 5G network has been expanding since its launch last year and now covers more than 740 sites in capital cities, with 72 located in the greater Perth area.

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Optus spent three years setting standards for its outsourced call centres – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus has spent the past three years setting common standards and metrics across its offshore contact centre operations in India and the Philippines, leaning on data and analytics to get the sizable project done.
Vice president of digital consumer Vaughan Paul told iTnews the standards program encompassed three business process outsourcing (BPO) partners and collectively around 4000 offshore staff.
It sets standards that cover everything from recruitment and training to how well agents serve Optus’ customers.
Paul said the program had been instrumental in helping the telco lift its net promoter scores (NPS), and that in turn had led to recent recognition, including a CXPA global innovation award.
“Over three years of work, working with our partners, we’ve put in place very strong standards and  we’ve been able to shift the NPS up significantly,” he said.
“I think that’s what the award was: it was recognition of that program and also the use of analytics and a very strong data regime to get some pretty good outcomes for us.”
While BPOs might ordinarily be expected to share data about their agents and the handling of calls, standards are likely to vary substantially between different operators, and the recourse for action isn’t always clear.
“The challenge for us has been trying to get them to a common standard, particularly in the measurement because each one may measure things slightly differently,” Paul said.
“One of the challenges with a BPO is that they will give you the data, and say, ‘Our agent attrition rate is x’ and we might respond, ‘That looks a bit high, what are you going to do about it?’ 
“Whereas we actually have them on a regular dashboard now where we’re tracking their performance we’re getting real data from them.”
Paul said the program produced more of a “partnership” with the outsourcers, who could also contribute to “joint ideation processes around how we can lift quality on a regular basis”.
The system offered data insights “about every person in the ecosystem”, Paul said. It also offered aggregate views of the data at a site level, country level, and vendor level.
“Now we can basically benchmark performance across every site and every vendor, and it’s consistent,” Paul said.
“We now know where to focus our time and attention as well.”
Optus said it looks at how many offshore agents pass probation and training, take unauthorised leave or drop out of the recruitment system entirely.
For those that stay on, Optus is interested in how they’re performing on the job.
“So we’re looking at how many customers they’re containing, what their transfer rate is, what their NPS rates are, and we’re looking at that by agent,” Paul said.
“Then, at the team leader level, we’re looking at how many coaching sessions they’re doing to make sure that they’re sitting down with each of their team members and coaching them through processes. 
So we’re tracking the nature of coaching interventions.
“We’re also looking at the outlier agent experiences. We can look at how many people are sending off too many transfers or not being able to contain a call.”
Optus’ standards team took data inputs directly from the BPOs but also some of the systems they used, such as interactive voice response (IVR).
From there, the data is modelled and a “quality score” deduced for each standardised metric. 
Paul said the telco is using Tableau as part of the platform, though it also surfaced the data in other applications including PowerPoint.
The three-year program saw standards and metrics set in the first year. In the second year, Optus asked its BPO partners to “lean in” to the program, and that meant the telco “started to see a big ramp in terms of our quality levels increasing”. 
“Year three was about optimisation,” he said. 
“We had the fundamentals in place, and we then leaned into certain areas that were a bit problematic.”
In recent months, Optus has had to relax some of the standards as part of its response to COVID-19.
Like other telcos, Optus was hit hard by lockdowns in India and the Philippines, and had to quickly stand up local operations to cover the shortfall in agent capacity left by the BPOs being unable to operate as before.
Paul said that understanding the standards and metrics had helped Optus to get temporary local agents up to speed more quickly.
“One of the good things about this program is we’ve been able to look at the learnings it’s given us to accelerate how we can ramp up a sizable workforce onshore in Australia, with the loss of some of those teams offshore,” he said.
“Leveraging these standards has enabled us to try to figure out how we could quickly accelerate bringing new headcount into our business and also training our retail people to be able to take a much wider call set as we lost some of that offshore workforce.
“We’ve had to let go some of the standards because we are obviously dealing with a brand new workforce, but we’ve picked up the key themes where we can to accelerate getting them up to competency so they can help us recover from the challenges we’ve had.”

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Optus faces class action after 50k customers’ details sent to White Pages – Security – Telco/ISP- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Optus is facing a class action lawsuit over the mistaken publication of 50,000 customers’ details in phone directories, which the telco disclosed late last year.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers filed the complaint and said it is “the first class action against a telco seeking compensation for a breach of privacy.”
“In what is an important test of Australia’s privacy laws, the class action is expected to seek compensation for affected customers,” the law firm said.
Optus chose to notify customers of the breach via snail mail, saying their name, address and phone number was mistakenly sent to Sensis and published in online (and potentially print) versions of its directories.
The telco attributed the data breach to a “system error”.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said that under the Privacy Act, corporations which disclose personal details of clients “face penalties including fines.”
“But until now no class action using the Act has been brought on behalf of customers seeking compensation,” it said. 
“Under the Act, consumers may be compensated for privacy breaches.”
Maurice Blackburn senior associate Elizabeth O’Shea said class actions were “an essential legal mechanism which allowed consumers to seek for corporate wrong-doing.”
An Optus spokesperson has been contacted for comment.

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