Cable & Wireless Inc.
Whether we provide dedicated or switched access, the service provider is often judged by the quality of the premises distri-bution system. At Cable & Wireless we expend a great deal of our time, energy, and resources in designing and delivering the best-quality network service in the industry. When the customer`s premises-cabling system is planned and installed by someone with proper knowledge, there is no weak link in the telecommunications chain. But if there is a problem with the premises distribution system, service will be degraded and we have a break in the chain.
Service providers deliver services to a demarc--a point of demarcation at the customer premises. We test and certify that the service meets all of the technical standards for the type of service ordered and notify the customer that "we`re good to go." They or their vendor can now connect their equipment to the circuits. In most cases, the service comes up without any problems and operates as it`s supposed to. However, sometimes it doesn`t.
His baby is ugly
That`s when things get sticky. Even after we prove that our service is good to the demarc, that isn`t the end of it. We now have to tell our customers that the problem appears to be with their equipment or cabling--not unlike telling someone that his baby is ugly. There`s really no good way to do it, and even if it`s true, no one wants to hear it.
The customer`s telecommunications staff or vendor may be equally sure that everything on the premises is fine, so now what? We have a service that doesn`t work, we`ve verified that the network portion is good to the demarc, and if we haven`t completely insulted the customer, we certainly have not endeared ourselves to their telecommunications staff or vendor. That`s usually when I`ll send one of my technicians, regardless of our test results and even if we don`t have equipment on site.
Often, it`s at this point that my worst fears are confirmed. We start at the telecommunications closet, where the word "telecommunications" has been added to what was the storage or janitor`s closet, and in some cases, still is. I mean, what better place to put that wet mop to dry than on the wall with all of these punchdown blocks to keep it in place?
I`ve seen telecommunications rooms where you had to move boxes or machinery out of the room to enable you to get to the equipment that you wanted to test. I`ve been to customer locations with small, poorly laid-out equipment rooms with airflow problems and worse, where multiple vendors work in, around, and over each other`s equipment in very cramped space.
I`ve seen telecommunications equipment plugged into a wall outlet that serves other devices on the other side of the wall, like a copy machine, microwave, or some other motor-driven device. Any of these devices can produce noise spikes intermittently--but never do when we`re testing.
Wire is wire
Now that we`ve seen the telecommunications closet, we can only wonder what the cabling looks like. There may be nonexistent cable pathways, so cable can pick up any form of noise as it meanders around the building. I`m sure you`ve seen it: cable runs across the floor and in the ceiling--with care not to miss any of the fluorescent lighting--or the mixing of the categories of cable and equipment. That`s when you might hear, "Wire is wire."
Never in the history of telecommunications has our job been as important as it is today. For many businesses, delays in service installation, downtime, or an outage can mean tens of thousands of dollars per minute in lost revenue. They look to their service providers and cabling installers to prevent that from happening.
I would like your help in finding a solution to the problem. How can we work together to better serve our customers? How can we ensure that quality telecommunications services don`t stop at the entrance to the customer premises? How can we work together better to prevent finger-pointing? And, finally, how do we spread the word?
Darryl Cardamone is regional operations manager at Cable & Wireless Inc. (Los Angeles, CA) and can be contacted at email@example.com. This article is adapted from a presentation made at the bicsi conference in Las Vegas, NV, last September.