Ensuring RMS Systems Work in the Field
How Asentria Brings Extensive Expertise In Trials To Ensure a Solution Is Fit For Purpose
Asentria, with over 100,000 sites in operation have become an integral part of their customer’s cell site optimization efforts. Bringing extensive experience from working on fully operating networks, our application engineers understand what is essential to get a network up and running successfully and cost effectively, with proper trials fundamental to this process. Asentria’s Jon Baars examines why RMS projects can often fail and explains where Asentria’s successful track record in such projects stems from.
Key points in the interview:
- How Asentria has evolved into more than just a hardware supplier
- The number of sites using Asentria systems in operation worldwide
- The mistakes many companies make in selecting an RMS system
- How trials and selection processes should be designed to minimize the risk of failure
- What differentiates Asentria from its competitors
TowerXchange: Please can you introduce Asentria and their portfolio of solutions for the telecom sector – what is the company’s origins?
Jon Baars, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asentria: Asentria is a thirty year old hardware manufacturer based in Seattle, WA USA. We began by designing and manufacturing hardware devices to integrate to PBX (voice) switches, and deliver alarm and telemetry data. Telecom operators began to use our devices for different purposes than just for PBX. The US military was also an early user. We began to transition to working more specifically with US-based mobile network operators to monitor their remote locations; power, security, and environmental issues at cell sites primarily. We have installations with two US based MNOs with approximately ~10,000 sites apiece currently in operation, and other worldwide networks with hundreds or thousands of sites deployed. Our current customers refer to us as part of “cell site optimization” efforts. It is far beyond just alarming now.
TowerXchange: What is Asentria’s go to market strategy?
Jon Baars, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asentria: We are used in many different telecom networks; rail or highway projects, oil and gas, utilities, and others. Our focus, however, is on MNOs and tower companies. There is a large amount of upfront integration and support necessary in order to get the most sophisticated projects up and running. The primary product we sell is hardware, but there is also a large component of services and integration that go with that hardware to get a project up and running within the operational environment of a large network operator. With larger network operators, the projects really never end, it is more of a partnership. We seek large networks as the large scale enables us to devote significant upfront time to integration, proof-of-concept, and roll-out plans. We help people who are motivated to solve a variety of operational issues at those sites optimize their sites. We’re broadening the geographic scope of our market seeking these large networks and the people responsible who want to make their networks better.
TowerXchange: The first question our readers usually ask of any vendor in the RMS category is “how proven is your solution in the field”?
Jon Baars, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asentria: We have over 100,000 sites in operation at this moment. The largest deployment we have had was approximately 18,000 sites at its peak for a US based MNO; it was a pretty sophisticated solution. Our hardware device was in a smaller cabinet, and we allowed wireless (EDGE) access to the cabinets, and enabled them to reboot individual -48VDC powered devices within the cabinet. The initial goal was to reduce truck rolls and mean time to repair, but the solution evolved to where we were managing many other things at the site; antenna tilt, managing power usage, and general network troubleshooting. Our current largest ongoing project is for a US based MNO, and it is more focused on issues tower owners would be concerned with; power, security, and environmental monitoring and integration to all the various sub-systems at the site. We “flatten” all this data into a usable form so that operational decisions can be taken. We are doing a project for hundreds of sites in the Middle East primarily for security purposes. We have a current project in the EU for what will eventually be thousands of sites that is based primarily on wireless modem access to sites.
TowerXchange: Why do you think it is that RMS projects often fail?
Jon Baars, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asentria: At this point, we have a lot of experience in what is actually being done successfully and cost-effectively. We expect to do a trial for any large network; go to a site and deploy our solution so we test our assumptions and prove that we work. Sometimes decisions are made regarding an RMS system solely based on paper RFQ document. It is difficult for us to know what exact solution we would propose until we actually go to a few sites. We expect to go to one site, then move on to deploying to a few sites, testing our deployment documents, and then support the process as it moves on to a broader deployment. As previously mentioned, we look at this as an ongoing process. Trials are a must; it is very difficult for us to come up with realistic pricing until we can agree with the customer what the solution is. Very rarely do we decide in advance what the solution is, and the scope of the solution doesn’t change during the trial phase. If we had our preference, there would be an initial request for information phase, where some broad data could be given by the RMS vendors. A short list of vendors could be created and some small budget could be dedicated to getting the shortlisted vendors to come do a trial at a small number of sites. Using this method, I think failures would be much more rare. Everyone could agree in advance of a large roll-out what was to be delivered and the RMS vendor could deliver a much more accurate price based on a promised solution.
TowerXchange: Finally, what differentiates Asentria from other RMS providers?
Jon Baars, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asentria: We have a lot of experience doing these systems. We expect every large project to run through a trial phase and we have application engineers whose job is to successfully create these trials. People in this application engineering role have generally worked on many other fully operating networks, and have a very good idea of what the standards are that are necessary to get a network up and running. We are aware of what other network operators are doing successfully and cost-effectively, and we will push to make our trials model the ideas that others are currently making work. We bring a lot of value at the trial phase, just for the opportunity to show what our solutions can do. We have a broad, flexible, and high quality product, and have thirty years of experience successfully implementing these projects
While preparing for the upcoming TowerXChange event in Johannesburg, South Africa in early October, I re-read the interview that I did with TowerXChange about my thoughts on why remote monitoring system deployments often would fail. Asentria has been working with telecom site monitoring for 30+ years, so we weren’t aware of projects failing often, but it did make me wonder, “why do remote monitoring system deployments succeed?”
I am more convinced than ever about the importance of trials. There are so many differences between telecom operators, between the equipment they have on site, to even their basic purpose for being in business (eg. towerco’s vs. MNO’s), that it would seem impossible that any project could succeed without going to sites and doing site trials, as well as integrating into existing workflows within a telecom operator. No two operators do things exactly the same. A large part of what you get when you work with dedicated telecom site automation companies is the expertise that goes along the hardware or software that they provide, expertise that is fully visible when you are forced to “prove it” and provide a trial. As to why do deployments fail? I expect it is because trials are hard and possibly people underestimate what is ultimately needed. It is hard work, but it’s the hard initial work that leads to valuable telecom site automation deployments that can be relied and built upon in the future.
We are always interested in discussing our past experiences, your projects, and how we can get a trial successfully underway. Feel free to contact me here!
1. TowerXchange Europe Dossier 2019 (https://www.towerxchange.com/)