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Linking Up: Telecom tools help The Mobile Store to consolidate operations

October 14, 2013
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Founded in 2007, The MobileStore Limited (TML) operates as a subsidiary of Essar Global Limited. The retail major provides multi-brand handsets, accessories, new mobile connections as well as mobile handset repair and value-added services. TML’s retail outlets have been established in three formats  – large (1,000-1,500 square feet), medium (800-1,000 square feet) and small (150-200 square feet).

The company’s mobile device portfolio has been classified into the business, lifestyle, fun and value-for-money categories. Apart from offering devices from all major handset brands, the company has also tied up with various operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

TML, which has over 800 outlets across 150 cities, has enhanced its communications set-up over the years. The idea behind the exercise was to aggregate data onto a common platform and streamline connectivity among its various locations.

tele.net examines the initiatives taken by the retail major to enhance its communications set-up…

Communications infrastructure

Having a robust telecom infrastructure has been an important consideration for the retail major ever since it began operations. “We have always had stringent usage policies for our telecom systems and servers,” says a company spokesperson.

At present, the retail major has a multi-tiered communications infrastructure. For each of its retail stores, it has deployed availability-based broadband and/or internet connectivity solutions. “We select the best broadband package available in that particular service area, based on our requirement,” says the spokesperson.

In addition, the company has deployed a secure virtual private network (VPN) link over the internet for connecting its headquarters and retail stores. The link offers additional security for TML’s communication network by connecting to the internet through a VPN tunnel. Network data is well encrypted and secured by the VPN standard, thereby reducing the risk of external attacks. Moreover, the medium has helped improve the quality of network service and performance, especially in terms of internet download speed as well as jitter and packet delay. Another important factor is that the VPN link enhances remote support and the scope of push-based application security.

For connectivity between its various outlets, the company has deployed several applications and utilises email as the primary medium. It also has a data centre in place, which ensures server uptime, data recovery and power backup, storage management, and hardware and network operations. For connecting the data centre to its head office (hub connectivity), TML has deployed multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) technology. Compared to other data connectivity mediums such as ATM and frame relay, MPLS has helped the company reduce overheads significantly.

Also, MPLS-based services have improved disaster recovery in several ways. “First, data centres and other key sites can be connected in multiple redundant ways to the cloud (and thus to other sites on the network). Second, remote sites can quickly and easily reconnect to backup locations if needed (unlike ATM and frame networks, for which either switched or backup permanent virtual circuits are required). In sum, flexibility for business recovery is the biggest advantage of MPLS connectivity,” says the spokesperson.

Apart from standard telecom tools, TML has deployed multiple internet- and intranet-based applications. It primarily uses two enterprise applications – a supply chain management software from JDA Software, and SAP. According to the spokesperson, redundancy for the company’s communication network is primarily requirement based and thus it has not deployed much redundancy in its communications set-up at present. It uses the services of several operators for its communications set-up and bandwidth varies from location to location. In all, close to 3,000 employees have access to this network.

Challenges and benefits

According to the spokesperson, the company faces two major challenges with regard to its telecom set-up. “Our store network is a large and distributed one. We have, therefore, deployed the services of multiple operators, and network support is a primary concern. Security of our network is the other major challenge.”

Nevertheless, the company’s telecom set-up offers several advantages. Connectivity is streamlined across the organisation and the company’s day-to-day administration processes are efficient and cost effective.

The way forward

The company is currently in the process of finalising a pan-Indian MPLS connectivity project for its store network. According to the spokesperson, this is expected to facilitate consolidation of services and increase the network’s security. Moreover, it plans to roll out a VPN-based access network for each of its stores.

Overall, an improved telecom set-up has helped TML manage its information assets efficiently and connect with its customers and stakeholders.

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