Project Mercury – Pre RFS (Ready For Service)
Typically, prior to connecting new services, nbn declare a section of network as RFS (Ready for Service). For HFC networks, this means that for each SAM (Service Access Module) and subsequent ONSA (Optical Node Service Area) within, the nbn CMTS needed to be connected, network in-fill needed to be completed and the existing sections of distribution network (~60-80% of existing premises passed) needed to be recertified and had to be confirmed as “fit for purpose” to carry new nbn services instead of just existing incumbent services.
Nbn identified that in many cases, the CMTS had been connected, but they may have to wait several years prior to completion of in-fill construction activity and certification to be completed before they could declare RFS status. Understanding that much of the existing network already had penetration of ~60% – ~80% coverage, an opportunity to carry out optimization of the existing network prior to in-fill occurring could provide those ~75% of passes premises with access to services 1-2 years ahead of schedule. TPS were engaged to develop a pre-RFS network optomisation strategy. This initiative was first called POC 21 (Proof of Concept, 21 SAM’s), which later grew into the production program known as Project Mercury.
Working closely with nbn, and leverage our vast HFC knowledge and experience, TPS developed a program, where network would be certified at each “touch point”, along the way to the customer connection point outside the property (network TAP). The challenge was that although the existing networks were fully functional, they had not transported the high speed services that nbn intended to deploy! TPS successfully completed the optimisation of 21 SAM’s, located in NSW, QLD & VIC. During the program, TPS assisted nbn to develop new IT tools to support optimisation and ongoing operational maintenance activities (Atlas Wayfinder enhancements, modem testing tools, digital RF leakage detection capabilities, …).
The program became known as Project Mercury, and additional DP’s were brought in to assist. However, it took some time for the other DP’s to scale up their offerings. During this time, TPS further assisted nbn by agreeing to complete a further 54 SAM’s as part of project Mercury. At the dame time, TPS assisted Telstra with their project Mercury participation by performing all inside plant testing and optimization activities for them, so that they could focus on OSP (outside plant activities). During the program, TPS identified many opportunities for rectification of pre-existing issues which didn’t necessarily impact existing incumbent services, but would have prevented successful operation of high speed nbn services.
Another side benefit of program Mercury was that all actives (LE’s, GNA’s & Apartment amplifiers) were replaced with modern Flexmax equivalents. Apart from the obvious reliability improvements this upgrade provided, these were also 1 GHz amplifiers, providing significant additional bandwidth for nbn use.