Reliance Communications' IT infrastructure backed bid for GSM services

When Reliance Communications, the Indian code division multiple access (CDMA) mobile service provider, decided to launch its global system for mobile communications (GSM) services, it posed a challenging task for the IT team.

In 2008, Reliance Communications Ltd. decided to rollout its GSM services across India, thereby covering 24,000 towns and 600,000 villages. This in turn posed a tough challenge for the organization's IT team. As Mona Singh, the project's manager (from Reliance Communications' IT engineering team) mentions, "We had a clear single line requirement from the business end: Replicate all CDMA business processes for GSM on the existing CDMA IT platforms in order to save cost and time." Thus the IT team started the process to extend CDMA IT architecture to cater to the GSM business' requirements.

Other project objectives included optimization and standardization of Reliance Communication's business processes across CDMA and GSM. The project had to facilitate customers to switch between the two different technologies with Reliance Communications while facilitating decision support, as well as provide better operation control and efficient cost management. At this point, the IT team came face to face with the unavailability of prototypes to use as a reference point, since this had never been attempted before.

To scale up existing IT infrastructure, Reliance Communications had to upgrade all its systems -- including applications, servers and storage. It procured additional servers from Sun Microsystems Inc., and chose to continue its existing relationship with Sun Microsystems for the hardware support. "We chose Sun due to the green factor attached to the servers, and the ability to get more computing power with a reduced carbon footprint. We could have gone for less expensive servers, but we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint," says Amarendra Sharma from Reliance Communications IT infrastructure team's planning and engineering team.

The project's planning started in May 2008, and the entire implementation was finished by December 2008 (within six months of the project's kickoff).

The overall investment made into the GSM project was Rs 10,000 crore, out of which a limited budget was allocated to the IT team. The project's planning started in May 2008, and the entire implementation was finished by December 2008 (within six months of the project's kickoff). The team implemented a common customer model without impacting and disrupting ongoing CDMA operations. According to Reliance Communications' IT team, the new IT platforms provide a seamless experience for customers as the systems are technology agnostic. Existing systems were upgraded to adapt to the new systems.

"This short timeframe is itself a record in telecom industry," says Rajesh Bhootda, the head of IT architecture and system Integration for Reliance Communications. According to Bhootda, the project focuses mainly on minimizing costs from an IT perspective. "There were clear objectives -- reuse application systems and re-examine existing IT processes; optimize these processes so that we can handle CDMA as well as GSM networks. We expected a huge surge in [the] number of new subscribers. Eventually, the actual number of new customers turned out to be much more than the expectation, and the best part was that our systems were able to cope with it," Bhootda adds. Reliance Communications' IT team is currently planning for a slew of projects, which include mobile number portability, 3G services, advanced customer self-care and business analytics.

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