Virtually all local government organisations operate two way radio systems for communication with and between council staff in maintenance, construction and operations activities that require dedicated group communications capabilities. These radio systems are often highly reliable, but can fall into disuse and even disrepair as they age. The new age of digital two way radio is here with manufacturers scaling back their support for analogue systems, driven by regulatory constraints on radio spectrum conservation and new functionality such as data transmission, GPS location and encryption.
Toowoomba Regional Council was formed from the amalgamation of 8 smaller councils, and in the process inherited 8 unconnected radio systems in varying states of reliability and coverage. Details of the radio site’s assets, including equipment types, performance and general health, was unknown. Many Council staff used mobile phones to communicate with colleagues and managers as the two way radio systems were difficult to use.
Toowoomba Regional Council wanted to know the condition of their 8 networks and where the points of failure were. First steps were an audit of infrastructure and assessment of investment options to remediate operational risks and to identify opportunities to make the network more effective for Council. It was important to minimise cost and to ensure systems worked as intended with some intergation to support operational activities.
The audit used Gravelroad templates and photographic records of equipment, buildings and masts, and identified areas of immediate work – battery and antenna replacement, Equipment retuning and spectrum changes.
A budget was developed for immediate and short term work, radio resource procurement was managed to comply with Council requirements, and remediation work overseen.
The longer term options were considered next – should Council plan to replace the existing analogue systems with the new digital technology? Should they manage the radio systems themselves, outsource management, or consider a completely outsourced service?
Radio spectrum changes were necessary in several sites, and a local airport suffered poor radio coverage due to radio interference from a nearby industrial source of radio noise.
Gravelroad was engaged to provide ongoing radio design and management services by Council until all remediation work was completed. Gravelroad continues to provide Operational Support for technical advice, service delivery and strategic planning.
Gravelroad has helped other Councils and public utilities to assess and upgrade their radio systems in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Our independence and industry knowledge provides a unique specialist radio resource for our clients.
Since July 2012 Gravelroad has been delivering the Federal Government funded Digital Enterprise Program, with and on behalf of the City of Ipswich in South East Queensland. The program is aimed at educating small to medium-size businesses (SMEs) and not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) as to the benefits and opportunities to be gained through the utilisation of digital technology.
The challenge was to encourage small business owners and organisation representatives to attend the program despite their initial lack of understanding as to the potential benefits of utilising digital assets and tools.
Once having attended a workshop, over 80% opted to have the 4 hour one-on-one mentoring session to identify where digital business tools could assist growing wealth, improve productivity and improve the customer experience.
As part of the Regional Digital Capability Building in Ipswich, Gravelroad were tasked to provide participants with a detailed understanding of the digital economy and provide a structured framework that can be used to develop a realistic strategy and roadmap for building digital capability across the region. This is linked to the region’s economic enablers and is designed to maximise the opportunities and benefits to the region as quickly as possible. Gravelroad provided the participants with the most beneficial information, 3 key topics were addressed:
The program consisted of 50 group workshops and 220 one-on-one mentoring sessions. In April 2014 the final of the 50 workshops was completed with the following results:
One-on-one mentoring sessions have been conducted with approximately 200 businesses and organisations with the remaining 20 to be finalised by the end of May 2014
Gravelroad’s success in delivering this program has resulted in the consultancy being engaged to deliver the same program in three other regions of Queensland, including:
In the 3 years from July 2012 to June 2015 it is envisaged that Gravelroad will conduct 195 workshops to an estimated 3000 small business owners or not-for-profit organisation representatives, along with the delivery and project management of some 750 one-on-one mentoring.
Fibre optic and high speed wireless broadband infrastructure deployments are accelerating across the globe as the demand for faster broadband access increases. In today’s ‘open world’, end customers have the ability to assess the performance of their broadband service using generic, easily accessible tools. These tools provide an indication of connection performance and help the end user judge the value of their broadband service.
The provision of test and measurement assessments of broadband implementations are required by funding organisations, regulatory bodies and companies responsible for building and operating the networks. It is important to provide definitive test and measurement information for broadband networks, to understand whether the tests available to end users are representative of a more specialised and controlled test suite and methodology.
In 2012, Gravelroad were asked to review and assess a cellular carrier’s deployment that was being funded to provide a broadband service using 3G technology. This assessment was focused on whether the capability that was being built met the contracted performance parameters.
In developing the test and measurement methodology, Gravelroad was able to provide understanding of the overall performance of the broadband service being provided and to answer essential questions:
Gravelroad completed a test & measurement service in the field at a set of locations through a sample service area comprising a number of cell sites. The wireless broadband service was delivered to Small Office / Home Office (SoHo) and residential customers in rural areas.
Measurements were completed by deploying a mobile test rig on a 4 wheel drive vehicle. This test rig simulated a SoHo installation with an additional server and laptops to perform a suite of tests, control the test process and to run web based measurements using speedtest.net.
In order that the devices at both ends of the link were under the control of the mobile test program software, Gravelroad installed a server at a peering exchange in the carrier’s network.
The automated test program provided a conventional test suite that included:
Other data gathered was:
The test system incorporated the capability to repeat the test suite with additional antenna attenuation. This provided a greater understanding of the sensitivity of the service due to potential issues such as installation errors, extended antenna cable runs, antenna pointing errors, failure of cable waterproofing etc.
The regime included tests to confirm that the system itself did not impact the test results.
A variant of the test methodology was produced to run unattended. This allowed an automated test suite to be run (at hourly intervals) of performance mapping against the time of day.
As a result of Gravelroad’s Test and Measurement process, a clear understanding of the service being provided was derived, where its strengths lay and weaknesses were likely to be located.
The project revealed some technical issues that the broadband provider was able to correct, to improve end user performance.
Client understanding has developed in relation to:
This independent review of network performance has helped both the client and broadband service provider to understand the end user performance experience, the variability of this performance, and the value of the service level agreement between the parties.
New Zealand Post Group is in the process of reviewing its postal network to ensure it is fit for purpose and economically sustainable into the future. Business changes include a combination of reconfiguration and efficiency improvements. Because of the medium term outlook and expected changes in future postal volumes, the changes are likely to be substantial.
Over many years there has been a significant decline in New Zealand postal volumes due to substitution by digital communications. This trend is expected to continue. However physical delivery of mail is part of the requirements of the 1998 Deed of Understanding between New Zealand Post and the Government. While this deed is likely to be reviewed, the physical delivery service is expected to continue for some time.
The Group is facing a number of challenges as its business continues to evolve, particularly how to concurrently manage bank growth and postal volume decline. In 2012, Gravelroad were asked to build an economic model of the New Zealand Post Group businesses. The model focused on supporting executive decision-making.
Gravelroad built on their initial economic modelling project that supported NZ Post’s Retail Transformation Programme, analysing the long run marginal impact of changes to product delivery and retail network configuration. This project delivered the marginal distribution cost structure generated in the retail area.
From this basis Gravelroad modelled the NZ Post Core Network to accurately determine the impact of changes in activity volumes for Postal Services on NZ Post’s future margins and profitability.
NZ Post are now able to see how each part of the business contributes to the profitability of the whole group. Gravelroad built all models in such a way so that they can easily be combined to form a total Group economic view that informs decisions on:
As a result of Gravelroad’s Economic Cost Modelling process, a clear understanding of the Postal Products and Services being provided was derived, where its strengths lay and weaknesses were located. The project revealed business issues that the Senior Leadership Team were able to consider, to improve efficiency and optimise the network.
Client understanding has developed in relation to:
TasRail is the rail operator in Tasmania with over 600km of track and has embarked on a significant upgrade of infrastructure and systems costing approximately $400 million. An important part of the upgrade is the installation of a Train Control System (TCS) and the radio communications network required to communicate with trains over the rail network.
TasRail had operated a reliable analogue radio system for many years to communicate with rolling stock, however it could not carry the necessary TCS data messages over modems. A completely new digital radio solution was evaluated for coverage and functionality, a draft budget established and the tender process commenced.
Part of the challenge was that new digital radio systems had not been used to support train control systems in Australia and so many aspects of coverage and digital message exchange in this context were new to both vendors and TasRail. If train control messages don’t get through, or there are delays in transmission, rolling stock cannot proceed to the next section of track, or may be delayed as messages are exchanged at the almost 300 Control Block locations throughout the rail network.
Gravelroad built on its strong radio engineering and user operational understanding to manage the business approach taken to the tender process, which was to seek offers for coverage, availability and message throughput. Vendors were asked to consider a variety of ways to deliver these outcomes using any standards based radio technology from a limited number of sites and to optimise network resilience within a limited budget.
Vendors were also asked to make their offers on the basis of service assurance and to negotiate cost against functionality, risk and ongoing support for a network operating in remote parts of Tasmania.
While it was important to encourage vendors to engage at a business level, TasRail also learnt much about modern digital radio capabilities and where compromise could be accommodated by operational arrangements and the location of Control Blocks.
The procurement process has resulted in the selection of a preferred vendor and construction of the network is underway following a detailed engineering design process. Gravelroad has assisted the vendor and TasRail during the detailed design process to jointly understand the likely radio performance, operational impacts and how to optimise the rollout, testing and commissioning of this vital radio system.
TasRail will acquire a digital radio data transfer system for the TCS which will enhance train operations throughout the network. Understanding the performance benefits and constraints of radio systems in critical operational activities has been an important output for the TasRail management team.
The project has delivered the following benefits at this stage: