TRAMAN - a city networks for municipal growth

In a crisis situation, as the world experiences in 2020, it becomes obvious how important well-functioning broadband services are. With fibre technology everyone are completely independent of geographical distance and how many people who are connected at the same time. Read how Per Berggren, responsible for Tranås city network TRAMAN, thinks about the best structure of the municipal city network that he runs.

Background

Tranås Energi operates the city network in Tranås, a municipality beautifully located in Jönköping County in Sweden. The town dates back to the Middle Ages, but today it´s a modern and digital visionary urban area with about 19,000 inhabitants and 9,200 households.

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Photo: Erik Hellquist

More than 100 years after Tranås Energi started producing electricity using the water in the Tranås mill, digital services via fibre networks are now an important part of the business. The connection rate is high, about 75 percent of the households have broadband via fibre and about 10 percent have access via copper - all operated by the city network. The remaining households that are not yet connected to the city network have connection in some other ways or refused to connect to the fibre network.

Tranås Energi network is named TRAMAN and is operated as an open access city network where the connected users can choose freely between a large number of service providers of Internet, telephony and TV services. The structure of the city network is characteristic of how the fibre networks in Sweden works and an example of how sweet music can arise in a successful collaboration between the city network and its product supplier.

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Photo: Erik Hellquist

The TRAMAN network dates back to 1997 when it was built as a network for the municipal administration. Since then, the first rental and the housing cooperative joined in 1998, the villas were connected from 2004 and from 2011 private companies joined. When TRAMAN began to dig fibre for residential areas in 2004, only five households joined, but today the demand among households is so numerous that there is an 8-10 week lead time to complete an installation. Since then, Tranås Energi has expanded its fibre connections to cover virtually all inhabitants. Now TRAMAN is in the final stage of its built-out where another 300 households will get fibre.

Challenges

Per Berggren tells about the time leading up to the collaboration with Waystream:

“Fibre infrastructure and a well-functioning city network are very important for the residents. We consider ourselves as being the engine for the municipality's growth. The digitalisation makes the systems more sensitive to disturbance. Therefore, our network needs to be redundant with reliable solutions. As a network owner and a municipal company, we have to think long-term and build for all local residents who need it, not just where we can find quick profits. We also have to think about all the components of the solution.”

However, city network management in Tranås was not satisfied with the functionality of their previous supplier's access products. They struggled to make the solution work. TRAMAN uses the BECS provisioning system from PacketFront Software to automate network and service configuration.

“I thought it could work with our previous supplier's equipment. It didn't. Throughout 2016 and 2017, we struggled with difficulties. The tools were blunt and required lots of manual work which took a lot of time. Changes such as adding new service providers could take up to half a day. That is why we two years ago chose to replace our installed base of access equipment and go with Waystream instead.”

The combination that TRAMAN uses works very well. BECS is a system that automatically configures the equipment in the network, so that services are delivered with the bandwidth and other function that the service includes. Because it is automatic, the technicians in the city network do not have to spend time on manually configuring the network.

Solutions

Around 5,000 fibre connections are now on Waystream's access switches. A ring topology is built for redundancy, each containing a maximum of eight switches. In the autumn of 2020, all rings will be completed. In total, there are about 300 switches in the network, both with fibre connection and with copper Ethernet in apartment buildlings.

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Photo: Per Berggren

Per Berggren is lyrical when he talks about the collaboration with Waystream:

“When we deployed the first new switches from Waystream in 2018, it worked so well that we quickly chose to also start replacing old installations. It became so much easier for our technicians to troubleshoot and operate. Now we will continue according to the same model throughout the network and go for Waystream altogether. In 2018, we built 600 new connections, just as much as in 2019. We are also in the process of converting the old installations from 2004. This means replacing the former supplier's products with Waystreams. Now we have built the network with Waystream's MS4000 but we are evaluating the new models MS7000 and ASR8000 as 48-ports save space for us.”

Results

Per Berggren cannot praise Waystream enough:

“With Waystream, it has become better for our staff, for our service providers and above all for our customers. The technicians think it is extremely flexible, now they can fully use BECS to add switches to the network. They no longer need to spend half a day configuring the switches manually, it just takes a minutes instead. This means they can spend a lot more time on other tasks. "

“We notice significant improvement in the configuration and deployment of switched and also in the troubleshooting time as well because of reduced number of those small errors that can pervade the lives of anyone. Now, even in the first line of customer service, the non-technical experts, can easily and directly see if the customer has IPTV and whether the connection is up or down. Since we can now often solve the problems in the first line, we don´t need  to send cases to our service providers. In this way, our service providers also benefit by reduced support load. In open access city networks, it is also popular to have a portal for self-service where customers can choose between different services and offers from different service providers. Then a system like BECS ensures that the customer's choice is automatically enabled in the network equipment. This works fine now.”

“In addition to all other benefits, Waystream's products are so affordable that I can have some in reserve. We are satisfied and it means a lot to us that the staff working with the network is also satisfied. With Waystream, it became wonderfully easy and safe and I can sleep well at night. We now have a stable and secure delivery to residential fibre users.”

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Photo: Erik Hellquist

Looking into the future

Per Berggren sees the new telemetry functionality as a very important and interesting future component of the city network. TRAMAN uses a solution from OP5 for network monitoring today but is now investigating how to take advantage of the telemetry technology as part of the network operations.

Waystream's telemetry solution helps the network to become smarter and take advantage of technology development in other areas such as artificial intelligence to support the operational organization in its important work.

“The more stable the network, the fewer faults there are and the faster service operation can be restored in the event of a disturbance. With a telemetry solution we can see even better that the system is up-and-running and can get both diagnostics and prognosis if a device is breaking down. Therefore, telemetry means that we can trust the infrastructure even more. Telemetry is central as the sensitivity to disruptions increases due to the digitalization of the society.”

“Right now, we are experiencing how quickly life can change and how new needs arise. In a crisis situation, it becomes obvious how important it is with well-functioning broadband services. With fibre you are completely independent of geographical distance and how many are connected at the same time. This reliability creates the best conditions for working from home, attending meetings on digital platforms, streaming movies, games and books, and training online when the gym is closed. With Waystream’s products, we can offer the city's residents what they need, both in- and outside of times of crisis,” concludes Per Berggren.