Tesco rolls out in-store mobile phone network

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Tesco rolls out in-store mobile phone network

Cliff Saran

Supermarket Tesco is rolling out a converged fixed and mobile voice network across its stores based on GSM technology. Cliff Saran finds out how the rollout is progressing.

In 2008 the UK supermarket giant signed a country-wide networks and telcoms contract with telco Cable & Wireless to provide managed network and voice services.

Through this contract, the supermarket has been deploying an in-store converged voice, data and mobile network, or Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) which combines next-generation networking technologies with a mobile network. Using a Radio Access Network (RAN) with picocells and mobile phone infrastructure it provides in-store voice communications and supports call transferring, without the need for a dedicated PBX.

Tesco wanted to provide staff with a single handset, which would work across all its sites. Mark Goddard, business systems portfolio manager for Tesco's Next Generation Network Programme, said, "We use GSM devices which connect to the RAN network via picocells, that then transmit over the C&W Worldwide next-generation network."

The handsets connect automatically to the private network when in range. Outside stores, the handset automatically roams onto a mobile network, which C&W Worldwide has partnered with for normal mobile phone coverage.

The rollout

By July, Tesco plans to complete the rollout of the mobile voice infrastructure to over 2,000 stores across the UK. So far 1000 have been connected.

RAN is installed in the shops, along with Nokia GSM handsets and Burnside GSM P300 desk phones, which also connect to the data network via the picocells providing the FMC service.

Staff who move around the store, such as supervisors and managers, are given mobile handsets, while desk based staff use a Burnside phone. Goddard said, "Previously people used to share phones, now every user has their own phone."

Role-based telephony

A unique extension number is assigned to the job roles of each user, making it easy to transfer calls to a supervisor or manager. Goddard said people can log in or out of different job roles to reflect their current duties. They can also log into more than one role so as to provide cover when a store manager is on holiday."

"We are in a good position where we have the right number of phones in the shops that will help our staff serve our customers better" he added.


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