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Steam Powered Networks

Going underground: a steam engine glides into modern Baker Street Photo: Getty Images
The London Underground celebrated 150 years this week by running a steam train three and a half miles from Paddington to Farringdon - the original extent of the network.

It's great parallel for the telecom industry because the issues are similar, not just the extreme of running   the steam train (a legacy 'device') through one of the most modern nodes on the network (the new St Pancras only opened in 2009) but at a more basic level the everyday network management issues.

The London Underground is one of the oldest in the world and every day struggles with capacity bottle necks; it carries 1,107 million passengers a year. It's also not a single network, with the different lines being built not just in different years, but different decades and even centuries with some lines - such as the Jubilee having the most modern infrastructure on the network with platform edge doors, but then interconnecting with some of the oldest parts of the network.

The parallels continue as you consider the alternative forms of interaction (links to bus, overground, taxi), the ways of connectivity (foot tunnel, bridge, escalator), customer interface (ticket barriers, ticket windows, doors), monitoring (control rooms, platform supervisors) etc etc...

Doesn't this remind you of a telecom network? And just like the Underground, telecom operators can't just toss away the legacy and start again, and indeed according to ETNO operators [in Europe] have no plans to seek simplification by creating a single network.

All this no doubt explains why 2013 is going to be the year of Network Management and why newly published research from Total Telecom shows 96% of telecom professionals rate network management as very important or critical and why 80% say it is of growing importance. Find out what else they say by downloading the research summary.

One final thought from the underground, they said the London Underground would never work - that's a bit like a telecom network as well...

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