The world on a wall

AUTHOR: Inavate

Dutch telecommunications giant KPN has recently upgraded its network operating centre in Hilversum with the installation of three replacement display walls by partner Heuvelman, constituting one of the largest installations of its kind in Europe.

KPN is the Netherland’s largest mobile network operator, enjoying some 56% market share and 27 million mobile phone customers across Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands. Keeping all these customers connected and happy at home and also whilst they travel abroad is a task demanding 24-hour attention and involves the handling a vast amount of network status data both from KPN’s own network and from its partners around the world.

The vast majority of this information is funnelled into KPN’s network operating centre (NOC) in Hilversum in central Holland. Needing to keep up with developments and cope with its own expanding customer base, the company decided in 2007 to replace the incumbent, nine-year-old display wall and replace it with a new solution.

Where better than to go looking for one than IBC, and that’s exactly where long-term partner Heuvelman invited KPN Project Manager Bennie Bongers and his team. The KPN contingent held meetings with a number of display wall providers, which included Mitsubishi, at the behest of Heuvelman’s account manager Leo Smeeding.

Having reviewed the products on offer, Bennie and his team selected the Mitsubishi solution for a number of reasons:

“Firstly, the meeting with the Mitsubishi guys was realy good, they were very helpful and understanding of our requirements. Also, it’s a very convenient solution because of the front access. This makes maintenance very simple. In addition the construction method of the wall means that it’s simple to change the configuration or replace an individual cube.

“Also the calibration of the wall is automatic – each cube is equipped with two lamps, which alternate between A and B every 5000 hours, and the cubes compensate for the newer lamp’s higher brightness.”

To decide on exactly what they wanted from the new wall, Bongers put together and in-house team from KPN, which worked closely with Heuvelman. They identified the key features of the wall, what data sources needed to be displayed and what other inputs would be required. In addition Heuvelman developed a set of primary pre-sets for different display wall layouts as well as providing a user friendly method by which KPN’s operations team would be able to develop their own pre-sets in the future.

“It’s a simple windows-based drag and drop environment. We can resize particular areas of the layout and then allocate data sources to them,” said Bongers.

The walls are housed in the same room, and are used by KPN to monitor its world-wide mobile phone network data. One wall copes with national data. A second one monitors the status of connections from Holland to different parts of the world and from their data streams, KPN can see how many customers are visiting different countries, and evaluate the quality of the network connections to those countries. From the overview on the large walls, an operator can focus on a particular piece of information and bring it down to his own terminal for more work.

The system in the operating centre consists of a total of 60 of Mitsubishi Electric’s VS-67XLW50U display cubes split into three identical walls. Each wall is 5x4 cubes with a total resolution of 5120 x 3072. They are controlled by Mitsubishi’s new VC-X3000 wall controller, which processes all the incoming data and video sources as well as interfacing with the operator terminals in the room.

“There are 15 PCs connected to the wall controllers and in addition to these, I can also connect to the VC-X3000 remotely via IP. Each controller has a fixed IP-address so that if one crashes or needs a reboot whilst I’m away, I can do it from my laptop,” Bennie stated.

In terms of data displayed, Bongers estimated that around 90% of the content comes from KPN’s own phone network. Then there are a TV input signal for a news feed and an internet connection, allowing a browser window to be displayed on the wall. The main use for this is to provide up to the minute weather information. Adverse weather conditions such as rain or thunderstorms can have a significant effect on network reliability.

The installation phase of the project went completely to schedule, which in such a mission critical application was vital. The first wall was installed over the course of a week from the 28th of January, the second was begun on the 14th of February and the final one on the 28th of February. The Heuvelman team was led by Sven Kreugel, and Bennie Bongers concluded: “I was very impressed by Sven and the professionalism of him team.”