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Power of Telecom: MPPKVVCL improves operations through timely upgrade

March 29, 2013
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Madhya Pradesh Poorv Kshetra Vidyut Vitaran Company Limited (MPPKVVCL) undertakes all activities pertaining to power distribution and retail supply in Jabalpur, Sagar and Rewa. As of March 2011, the company served 3.25 million households, who consumed 7,231 MUs of electricity. The company’s aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses stood at 34.87 per cent in 2010-11.

With growth in its customer base, MPPKVVCL took steps to upgrade its communications network. The objective was to improve network connectivity, enhance customer experience and streamline the distribution process.

tele.net tracks the development of the utility’s telecom set-up…

The early days

According to Dr Vivek Chandra, head, information technology, MPPKVVCL, the company’s telecom infrastructure was based on decentralised architecture. This meant that all offices had their own telecom network. Each department was connected through a local area network and all computers were connected to a single computer with limited functionalities.

The company used plain old telephone systems and email for external communication. The set-up comprised “dumb” terminals, which had restricted usage, telephone lines and email. This infrastructure was inadequate to ensure streamlined communication across offices, which posed challenges in project execution.

However, with increasing customer requirements and technology advancements, the utility realised that it needed telecom infrastructure that facilitated efficient and contemporary work practices, and optimised workflow.

The overhaul

As the first step, the utility deployed wide area network links for connecting servers located at each office as well as for linking the collection kiosks with servers.

Dual technologies were used for these links – radio frequency and multi-protocol label switching (MPLS). According to Chandra, deploying MPLS provided the company multiple benefits. “The medium helped us trim overheads. Depending on the specific mix of applications, and network configuration, MPLS-based services can reduce network costs by 10-25 per cent as compared to data services (such as frame relay and asynchronous transfer mode [ATM]). Also, MPLS-based services support various modules pertaining to quality of service, which is particularly important for companies that are using voice and video in tandem,” says Chandra.

As per Chandra, MPLS services reduce the number of “hops” between network points, which translates into increased response time and improved application performance.

The utility also has a data centre in place. It was established under the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme and most of the modules required for it are at an advanced stage of implementation. The data centre is expected to perform multiple functions including ensuring server uptime, data recovery and backup, storage management, hardware and network operations, and providing support for operations and end-users. It will also function as a disaster recovery site. Therefore, connectivity loss due to an emergency will not impact data centre operations.

The utility also plans to leverage its MPLS-based services to improve disaster recovery. This is because the MPLS-based network can help in connecting the utility’s data centre and other key sites to the cloud in multiple redundant ways (and thus to other sites on the network). Also, this medium allows remote sites to easily reconnect to backup locations as per requirement (unlike ATM and frame networks, for which switched or backup permanent virtual circuits are required).

MPPKVVCL also uses several IT tools. As per Chandra, it has 29 servers for low-tension billing and around six servers for high-tension billing. The company has also introduced camera-based meter reading and online bill payment facilities and a web-based system for substation maintenance.

In addition, it has deployed various Oracle- and Sybase-based applications.

Challenges and benefits

According to Chandra, the key challenges faced by the company were the integration of legacy systems with new systems and other issues in system maintenance.

The utility has been able to reduce AT&C losses by 3-4 per cent over the past two years. Also, installation of payment kiosks and a web-based consumer care system have helped the company improve customer services significantly.

Going forward, the utility has identified several technologies to strengthen its communications network. These include enterprise resource planning, the Oracle CCNB application and supervisory control and data acquisition system implementation in Jabalpur city.

In sum, the deployment of a multilayered communications set-up has helped MPPKVVCL reduce losses and streamline operations.

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