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ANALYSIS OF FIXED PHONE MAINTENANCE PERFORMANCES

IN STADIUM EXCHANGE BUSINESS UNIT


By
Stanley Kadzuwa Mwale PJL 1148

FINAL REPORT
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement of City and Guilds Advanced
Diploma.
DIPLOMA
IN
ADVANCED TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEMS 2730
As required by
CITY AND GUILDS OF LONDON/ MALAWI POLYTECHNIC
ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT.

Project Supervisor
Mr. T. Chadza
ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The idea of analyzing the maintenance performances in Stadium Business Unit was
hatched from common complaints from subscribers I have personally met who
complained about the procedures of fixed phone maintenance.

Valuable information on maintenance processes and procedures, which I got from the
assistant manager, Mr. J. G. Makina, cannot go unmentioned, because much of the
analysis surrounded his information.

Field technicians were difficult to meet. However, Mr. Mnundo and Mr. Msyali of
Chinyonga and Makata coverage areas respectively willingly come forward to assist in
the information for the analysis of maintenance performances.

The following people; Mr. Abdul of DWS, Mr. Lizgen of Manica, Mr. Pangani, and Mrs.
Chimatiro and Charity Msatiyenda responded to the phone questionnaires favorably,
among the many respondents.

Finally, my appreciations and gratefulness cannot be complete without the name of my


project supervisor, Mr. Timothy Chadza for his criticism and encouragement.
ABSTRACT

The Analysis of Fixed Phone Maintenance Performances in Stadium Business Unit, is an


attempt to find out the policies and strategies for maintaining a phone as laid down by
M.T.L. phone company, utilized by the Business Unit, and to find solutions to problems
that arise due to time that is taken from the time the phone breaks down to the time it is
repaired.

This project took place in Stadium Business Unit, which has a current capacity of 18,000
lines. A sample of two coverage areas of SBU has been selected based on the fact that
one is a Commercial area and the other is a residential area. The selected samples have a
general outlook of the whole business unit as is seen in Table 1 compared with Tables 2
and 3 below.

From the look of things the provider is not putting enough attention to maintenance
performances. The five-day fault reports below shows that some faults have not been
tackled for five days running, and some of these faults have been carried into this five-
day record and carried through this five-day period.

This project will benefit Stadium Business Unit in particular and M.T.L as a company, in
that when the phones are maintained promptly, customers will be happy and the company
will realize more revenue. This will reduce the cost on both the subscriber and the
provider. The field technician will benefit in a way, because many people think the field
technician is not efficient, such that some subscribers have abandoned their already
installed fixed phones because of long un-serviced outages that are so costly. The
subscriber will appreciate a phone that is working than to have one that is not working.
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgment ii
Summary iii
Table of contents iv
List of Tables v
List of figures vi
Introduction 1
Background Information 2
Maintenance Theory 3
Method of Investigation 5
Presentation of Data 6
Discussion on Findings 8
Conclusion 11
Recommendations 12
Glossary 13
Reference 14
Appendix 15
LIST OF TABLES PAGE

Table one: Faults/ Technicians ratio in stadium and sub exchanges 6


Table two: Current capacity of stadium business unit less direct feed 6
Table three: Daily fault report for Stadium Business Unit
from 31st. March 2007 to 6th. April 2007 6
Table four: Daily fault report for Chinyonga from 31st.
March 2007 to 6th. April 2007. 6
Table five: Daily fault report for Makata from 31st. March 2007 to
6th. April 2007. 7
LIST OF FIGURES PAGE

Fig. 1: Setup of a local line from exchange to distribution point 15


Fig. 2: Daily fault report for 31st. March 2007 to 6th. April, 2007,
for Chinyonga 15
Fig. 3: Daily fault report for 31st March 2007 to 6th April 2007,
for Makata. 16
Fig. 4: Daily fault report for 31st March 2007 to 6th April 2007,
for Stadium Business Unit 17
INTRODUCTION

The Analysis of Fixed Phone Maintenance Performances in Stadium Business Unit, is an


attempt to find out the policies and strategies for maintaining a phone as laid down by
M.T.L. phone company, utilized by the Business Unit, and to find solutions to problems
that arise due to time that is taken from the time the phone breaks down to the time it is
repaired.

A fixed phone is one of the old means of communication that is still viable and cost
effective. It is indeed scalable and steel has a long way to go especially in the developing
countries like Malawi. However, the phone is subject to breakdowns caused by tear and
wear of both natural and human origin. The new developments in telecommunication
services like Internet, Fax and e-mail are cost-effective and dependable if they are using a
fixed line as opposed to wireless or mobile communication.

The cost-effectiveness and dependability is well appreciated on a fixed phone that is


continuously available. Maintenance of the phone is an essential element for the
continuous availability of service. The analysis of fixed phone maintenance performances
in Stadium business unit is addressing this problem of delays in maintenance processes,
which is caused by the process of reporting the fault to the technician in the field.

In the procedure of reporting a fault, the technician does not know that a phone is out of
service in a said area until he/ she is informed by the business unit manager. The manager
has to be informed by the fault-reporting centre, where the subscriber is supposed to
report. This process of reporting is unnecessarily long.

The fault reporting centre does not report immediately the fault is reported. The fault-
reporting centre gives a reference number to the subscriber and then compiles a day’s
fault report, which is forwarded to the business unit manager at the beginning of the
following day.

When the phone is faulty, it becomes ‘expensive’ on both the subscriber and the provider,
this is not acceptable hence, it is paramount that maintenance performance be above
average. This project report suggests shortening the process of reporting the fault by
putting all business units on line with the fault-reporting centre so that the manager is
able to access the faults as they occur and inform the field technician promptly. The field
technician should have continuous access to the manager’s office and be able to report
field progress on regular basis. This will help the manager to respond to customers’
queries comfortably. This can be a solution to the problem of delay in maintenance
performances.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Currently, Malawi Telecommunication Limited (MTL) is the only fixed line phone
provider in the country. This gives MTL a monopoly share of the market such that the
demand is far much higher than the provider can meet. The government of Malawi
through the Ministry of Transport and Communication previously provided this service.

MTL has strived to improve the service beyond that of a mere government service by
putting down strategies of management of a private company. One of the strategies is that
of dividing the countrywide company into Business Units. Stadium Business Unit is one
of such divisions across the country. It covers the biggest industrial area in Blantyre and
Southern Region. Its residential coverage area is close to industrial area. This makes it an
important phone coverage area.

For the phone service to be dependable and continuous there is need for a strategic and
consistent maintenance, hence, Analysis of maintenance performances.

Most Industries uses fixed phones in their offices and uses them as part of their addresses.
It is easy for their customers to find them or know where they are. The reason for this is
that MTL is the only phone provider that has readily available Telephone directories.
With this setup the maintenance performances for MTL are supposed to be above
average.
MAINTENANCE PERFORMANCES THEORY

MTL network is composed of local lines, junctions and trunks. (Green D.C., 1981)
Stadium Business Unit is a star topology, which originates from the exchange/ switch to
the customers’ premises through CCPs mostly, because some are directly fed from the
switch, and DPs. It is composed of local lines and junctions. ‘Local lines are unamplified
circuits that connect individual telephone subscribers to their local telephone exchanges;
junctions are two wire circuits that may or may not be amplified and connect nearby
exchanges together; and trunks are four wire circuits that interconnect more distant
telephone exchanges’. (Green D.C., 1981)

Stadium Business Unit is composed of the Customer Care Center, which is like the
administration of the unit, and the Exchange. These work in collaboration with the Fault
Reporting Center. This is a common arrangement of a Business Unit.

The local line runs from the exchange to various coverage areas down to the subscriber.
A particular coverage area has a Cabinet (Cross Connection Point, CCP) or two, which
distributes to various distribution points (DP). Depending on the capacity of the area, a
200 to 400 pair cable or even a 1000 pair cable is laid from the exchange to a CCP or
cabinet in the coverage area. In the cabinet the cable is terminated into terminal blocks of
100 pairs. There are two sets of terminal blocks, i.e. the exchange side commonly known
as the E side and the subscriber side commonly known as the D side. From the D side in
the cabinet to the subscribers’ premises there is a distribution point in between.

Most distribution points in the residential coverage areas are pole mount and their
capacity is mostly ten pairs. However, in commercial coverage areas, most distribution
points are wall mount. Most wall mount distribution points can carry a capacity of a
minimum of twenty (20) pairs to as much as hundred (100) pairs. From the distribution
point to the customer’s premises, a drop wire is used and here an indoor flexible wire is
used.

The cabinet is the test point between the exchange and the subscriber. Most outages
happen between the cabinet and the subscriber. This may be the reason the exchange may
not know whether the customer has service or not unless he/she reports. In every set of
pairs it is good practice to reserve some pairs, which can be used in case there is a
discontinuity in an active pair away from a joint inside the cable. These reservations are
supposed to be done all the way down to the distribution point from the cabinet. A
technician is assigned a coverage area. When a fault is reported the technician will first
go to the cabinet to see if the said pair has a tone from the exchange, so that the
technician can check which side the fault is and repair it.

The fault-reporting center is composed of personnel who sit on extensions of a toll-free


line 197. A call to 197 will go to any of the extensions, which is idle. The personnel will
record the fault, give the caller a reference number and compile a list of reported faults.
This list is forwarded to the Business Unit Manager who will distribute to the concerned
technician.
The project analyzed Stadium Business Unit regarding the delay in maintenance
processes. The problem at hand is the time that elapses from the point of reporting a fault
to the point when the fault is cleared. The movement of information from the customer to
technician in the field has too many stages. The Fault-reporting Centre waits to compile a
day’s list. This list is forwarded at a certain time i.e. the beginning of the following day.
This reduces the availability of the phone service.

A fault should be cleared once and for all and within the twenty-four hours it has been
reported (MTL, 2006).
METHOD OF INVESTGATION

The analysis of maintenance performance was conducted using interview, which were
conducted with various staff of Stadium Business Unit and several subscribers of the
same Business unit.

The first interview was conducted with the Assistant Manager who explained the
policies, strategies and manager’s discretions in the process of maintaining a phone.
During this interview, the manager provided data of faults, which explains about the
reported and repaired faults. This is part of the analysis of maintenance performances as
shown in the tables. See Table 2.

Another way was to conduct phone interview with subscribers to fulfill the objectives.
Most subscribers from the industrial area responded well and were even giving their
opinion and expectation from the provider in terms of maintenance performances.

The findings from the interviews were compared to the available data and results and
conclusions were drawn.
PRESENTATION OF DATA

Table one:
FAULTS/ TECHNICIANS RATIO IN STADIUM AND SUB EXCHANGES

COVERAGE AREA/ NUMBER OF NUMBER OF FAULTS


EXCHANGE TECHNICIANS IN FIVE DAYS
STADIUM 9 <1342
NDILANDE 2 <298
ZINGWANGWA 2 <298
CHILOBWE 1 <149

Table two:
CURRENT CAPACITY OF STADIUM BUSINESS UNIT LESS DIRECT FEED

EXCHANGE NO. OF CCPs. EXCHANGE


CAPACITY
STADIUM 22 15,000
NDIRANDE 7 1,024
ZINGWANGWA 5 1,520
CHILOBWE 2 512
STADIUM BUSINESS UNIT 36 18,056

Table three:
DAILY FAULT REPORT FOR STADIUM BUSINESS UNIT FROM 31ST.
MARCH 2007 TO 6TH. APRIL 2007

DAY Faults Bf REPORTED TOTAL CLEARED Faults Cf.


1 382 42 424 39 385
2 385 41 426 64 362
3 362 36 398 34 364
4 364 48 412 29 383
5 383 45 428 20 408

Table four:
DAILY FAULT REPORT FOR CHINYONGA FROM 31ST. MARCH 2007 TO 6TH.
APRIL 2007.

DAY Faults Bf REPORTED TOTAL CLEARED Faults Cf.


1 11 2 13 - 13
2 13 3 16 3 13
3 13 - 13 1 12
4 12 1 13 - 13
5 13 1 14 2 12
Table five:
DAILY FAULT REPORT FOR MAKATA FROM 31ST. MARCH 2007 TO 6TH.
APRIL 2007.

DAY Faults Bf REPORTED TOTAL CLEARED Faults Cf.


1 17 1 18 - 18
2 18 2 20 - 20
3 20 6 26 - 26
4 26 3 29 - 29
5 29 - 29 - 29
DISCUSSION OF FINDING

The results presented above shows that there is more room for improvements in terms of
maintenance performances in Stadium Business Unit. While the Business unit is not able
to meet the required level of maintenance of a fixed phone, there are many would be
subscribers who are waiting to have a phone in their office or home.

The results show that there is luck of commitment on the part of the provider. There are
no enough technicians to handle the faults that accumulate on daily basis. Currently the
Business Unit has 18,056 lines to subscribers. This is far below the potential of the Unit.
The numbers of technicians who are on the lower side are supposed to do expansion work
besides maintenance work. This means each technician is responsible for 1,200 lines; this
may not be manageable when the level of faults rises. As a mater of policy, each
technician is expected to clear six faults in a day. This is not possible if the same
technician is to do expansion work. In tables four and five it is noted that some day’s
faults are reported but no fault is cleared in those days. If a cumulative graph were to be
drawn from the reported faults it will be very steep because the number of cleared faults
is below one third of the total reported faults.

The results means there is need for more commitment by management of MTL as a hole
in terms of supplying resources, both human and other resources, in order to meet the
required level of maintenance performances. It also shows that the Business Unit is not
able to satisfy its market hence, maintenance is jeopardized. It does not have the capacity
to meet the rising demand for a fixed phone. Expanding to new subscribers when
maintaining the existing subscribers is inadequate is like planting in the bush. It can also
be termed as an abuse of the customer and the maintenance personnel. However, both the
subscriber and the provider have played a part in bringing down the level of maintenance
performance as discussed below.
PROVIDER’S CONTRIBUTION TO MAINTENANCE DELAYS

The interview with the manager was firstly intended to find out what policies are there
for maintenance performances. Secondly it was meant to find what is at the disposal of
management to help in maintenance process. For the policies, the company requires that a
fault be cleared within the twenty-four hours it has been reported. Each technician is
expected to clear six faults in a day. The technicians are supposed to be in the field by
7:30 am. However, management admitted that the technicians are not in the field on time
due to transport problem. The technicians are also responsible for new installations;
therefore they cannot clear six faults in a day. Management also said every technician is
fully aware of his place of work but he/she can collect a map from management if need
be. However, management has taken a big role in the delays by not providing adequate
resources like transport, etc. As regards positioning of technicians, there is no policy,
which guides management as to who is supposed to be where; it is at the manager’s
discretion to put a particular technician in a particular area. Due to shortage of
technicians, management has not moved technicians around such that some technicians
have served in one location for over five years. SBU has 36 CCPs, see Table 1. Fourteen
technicians and five vehicles. Of the five vehicles, 2 are in the garage for a long time.

The interview with the technicians from the selected areas was meant to discover any
different opinion between management and the technicians in order to discover his/ her
contribution towards delays in maintenance process. Another reason was to know
different causes of common faults in both residential and commercial areas and also to
tackle the issue of bribery and corruption, which affect maintenance performances. The
technician has taken advantage over management’s shortfalls. He/ she has blamed
management for most of his/ her failures.

Since the areas of operation for this project were commercial and residential, the
technicians in the respective areas were interviewed with slightly different questions.
Both technicians agreed on main causes of common faults as being vandalism and
carelessness of the people using the phones and people leaving in the areas where phones
are. They said the reason is that some wires pass through private properties and this is
inevitable. The technicians cited the problem of transport as the cause of failure to
complete day’s work, because they arrive after 8:00 am and have to leave for lunch as
early as 11:30 am, because one vehicle has to ferry technicians of different coverage
areas. In the afternoon they leave the office at 1:30pm. And arrive late also. They said all
technician have basic tools to enable them to handle any situation of their work and these
are: a portable phone, an oscillator, amplifier, side cutters which have basic screwdrivers
and a ladder and that each technician has all this. They said sometimes they luck supplies
where necessary replacements are required, like cables and connectors but these
occasions are not common. Both technicians agreed that every technician is aware of the
geographical setup of his/ her place of work.
CUSTOMERS CONTRIBUTION TO DELAYS IN MAINTENANCE

The customer’s contribution is mainly due to ignorance of the procedures. However the
interview shows that most customers know where to report when their phone is out of
order. Problems arises when the customer report and there is no prompt response. This
has lead to bribery, where the customer will divert the technician from his/ her planned
days work to do this particular customer’s work. Both technicians agreed that they do
sometimes receive reports straight from customers but they cannot attend to them because
at the end of the day they are supposed to send a clearance report to the fault reporting
centre and it has to much that which is in the centre’s record. Hence, they only attend to
faults, which come from the centre. This can lead to bribery and corruption. On the
economic perspective, this is counterproductive. Because had the phone been repaired
outside the fault reporting centre’s list, the proceeds gained thereof by the customer’s use
of the phone benefits the company. The company needs their service to be used in order
for it to raise revenue. This is a cause for unnecessary delay in maintenance
performances.

From the network map collected it was discovered that any technician could easily follow
lay out of the wire of any phone in the area they are assigned, because the map includes
notable features in the area like buildings or shops. The fault reports, which were
collected, have more evidence, which shows that there is less commitment towards
maintenance performances by management. From the fig3 and Table 3 for Makata CCP 5
for five days apart from the carried forward faults there were 12 faults reported but no
fault was cleared in the whole five days.
CONCLUSION

The maintenance performance picture present in the selected coverage areas and the
whole Business Unit is not different as read from the daily fault reports above. The
number of faults is growing to an alarming rate because the number of faults cleared in a
day is below that which is reported, without counting those that are caused by vandalism.
The process of reporting a fault, as explained in the project description, is too long. If it
was shortened, the delays in maintenance process could be reduced or even removed.
There is need to increase the maintenance activities and maintain the policy (MTL,
2006) that a fault should be cleared once and for all. If this policy was followed, we could
come to a position where there would be no outstanding faults.

It was indeed necessary in the first place to conduct this research because it will shake up
the system and remind management to start to follow the laid down policies and also to
move with time. For example if there is no fault cleared for a week, somebody has been
without the service for a week or even more. The significance of the information given
above is that the Business Unit will revisit its Maintenance performance system. This
may even go to other Business units. The advantage is that this report can help the
Business Unit at no cost, because it was done without any funding fro Stadium Business
Unit. The only limitation visible is that since the company is undergoing restructuring
process it may lead to this report being ignored due to the restructuring that is going on.
RECOMMENDATIONS

The problems associated with maintenance performances in Stadium Business Unit are
neither better nor worse, compared to other business units. Most of these problems are
due to strategies set by the central management, whose needed resources are not
adequately provided. For example, the central management is the only solver of the
transport problem. However, the analysis has shown that putting all business units on line
with the Fault Reporting Centre can reduce the time that is wasted in the process of
reporting a fault. This means the manager will not wait for the day’s list of reported faults
for him to tell the technicians to go and repair a fault. The technicians will clear the faults
on line, making the whole process short and simple.

Currently, MTL has the cordless phones, which are in form of desktops and portable
pocket size. These can be allocated to the technicians for official use, so that they can be
accessible by the manager at all times.

This paper suggests that all business units should be on line with the fault-reporting
centre, so that the manager should access the faults as they are reported. There should be
regular communication between the technician in the field and the manager so that he
should have a field progress report. This will give the manager a better standing in
responding to customer’s queries.

Finally, it is recommended that there should be a policy that any line that has not worked
for more than a month should be recovered for further allocation. This will maximize
revenue per unit line, because any line that is not working contributes to loss of revenue.
This is against the aim of this project and indeed the aim of MTL and Stadium Business
Un it.
GLOSSARY

CCP: Cross Connection Point


CLRD: Cleared Faults
MDF: Main Distribution Frame
SBU: Stadium Business Unit
TEC: Telecommunication Engineering Centre
Business Unit: Managed Unit composed of the customer care centre, the exchange and
its coverage area.
Engineering Service Circuit: This is a communication circuit provided by management
for use by the technician to talk to the management and vise a versa.
Toll Free Number: This a number provided by the phone company for public service of
a specific purpose.
Subscriber: A service user or customer.
REFERENCE

M.T.L. March 2006 Quality of service report.


Green, D.C. 1981, Longman, Radio and Line Transmission B,
APPENDIX

FIGURES

MDF CCP DP DP
MANHOLE

CHAMBER CCP
MANHOLE

EXCHANGE DP DP
MANHOLE JOINT
BOX
100

80
Fig. 1: SETUP OF A LOCAL LINE FROM EXCHANGE TO DISTRIBUTION POINT
60
East
40 West
20 North
63
0 Faults
62 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Cf.
Faults Qtr Qtr Qtr Qtr
Bf

7
Faults 6
report Faults
clrd.

Fig. 2
DAILY FAULT REPORT FOR 31ST. MARCH 2007 TO 6TH. APRIL, 2007,
FOR CHINYONGA
122
Faults
Cf.

110
Faults
Bf

12
Faults
report 0
CLRD

Fig. 3: DAILY FAULT REPORT FOR 31ST. MARCH 2007 TO 6TH. APRIL 2007,
FOR MAKATA.
1902
Faults
Cf.

1876
Faults
Bf

212
Faults
report 186
Faults
CLRD

Fig. 4
DAILY FAULT REPORT FOR 31ST. MARCH 2007 TO 6TH. APRIL 2007,
FOR STADIUM BUSINESS UNIT.