Crossing borders

PalTel has implemented Nortel soft switches as the first step of a major organisation transformation.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  July 6, 2008

The deployment builds on an existing upgrade to PalTel's SDH network backbone with Nortel's Optical Multiservice Edge 6500 (OME6500) convergence platform, a solution that was used to increase backbone capacity from 2.5Gbits/sec to 10Gbits/sec and enhance network capabilities.

This earlier upgrade enabled PalTel to introduce new features and services such as televoting, video broadcasting and broadband to the home. According to PalTel, these features were used during the 2006 Palestinian elections.

"The soft switch implementation included network maintenance from the Nortel Global Services portfolio. This supplements internal network management, which is channeled through a network operations centre where infrastructure is monitored through the day," states Al-Hijawi.

The soft switch solution took about a year to implement and, according to Al-Hijawi, the process proved to be entirely smooth since it was a greenfield implementation for the company and did not involve any upgrades.

"The implementation has enabled us to provide inexpensive international calls in the West Bank and Gaza strip. We have also introduced SIP-based voice services with IP Centrex, and advanced multimedia services, along with an international calling card," states Al-Hijawi.

The solution has already paid back the business by helping increase the volume of calls that could be handled by the service provider. It has enabled PalTel to compete better and differentiate itself from the new entrants to the market.

The next stage and beyond

"We are working on the second phase of the project, where we aim to penetrate the international market better and connect directly to the top tier carriers around the world.

These direct routes will enable us to exchange traffic back-and-forth and the company will have an opportunity to sell voice traffic for all Arab and non-Arab countries," states Al-Hijawi.

According to him, this is just the start in a complete transformation which will see the organisation deploy a next-generation converged network.

"We are currently working with 53 switches. We want to consolidate that in the future to seven switches. We cannot do that on the current TDM line. We will start transforming the network to the next-generation using soft switches," states Al-Hijawi.

He clarifies that other vendors apart from Nortel - Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson being just two of them - are also being considered for co-ordinating the transformation and announcement on the final vendor can be expected soon.

"The Nortel soft switches that are currently in place form the core of the new network. The rest of it should start in late 2008 to early 2009 and we should be on a fully-fledged new network by 2010," he says.

All IT projects at PalTel are closely linked to business drivers, and are carried out with the bottom line always in mind.

"We do annual budgets and we usually formulate the IT budget for the next year by the second half of the previous year. We start gathering information from all the departments that we need to service in the organisation.

We check the needs of each of these departments and their subsidiaries. After we have compiled this information, and we have a clear picture of the projects that need to be executed, we create the IT budget," says Al-Hijawi.

"We work on projects with the various departments of the company always in mind," assures Al-Hijawi.

For the short term, Al-Hijawi states that the major project on the cards is the one involving the network's transformation. But, he assures, as PalTel continues to stretch its service provision across global borders, so will its IT work continue to set new standards in network implementation and utilisation.

All about PalTel

PalTel is the national telecommunications provider in Palestine. The company offers a range of services including local and international telephone services, internet, data communications, mobile, value-added services, payphones,and next-generation services in addition to creating the backbone for other related telecom services.

The company has an exclusive license agreement with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to develop the telecom sector. The company commenced operations on January 1, 1997 with paid capital of JD 45 million, which further increased in 1999 to JD 67.5 million (US$95 million).

PalTel is a public shareholding company listed on the Palestine Securities Exchange. Its shareholders include a range of institutional and individual investors.

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