A day in the life of a special network projects engineer

By Claire Venners – Special Network Projects Manager at Telefónica UK.

England’s first rugby Autumn International was always going to be a special event. But not because we were playing the All Blacks. The match on November the 8th was the first time that a rugby match had an in-stadium 4G coverage solution. And while unfortunately we didn’t secure a victory on the pitch the O2 4G customers amongst the 82,000 strong crowd definitely noticed a boost in their data performance clocking download speeds of 26 megabytes per second (Mbps).

As a special projects engineer it’s my job to make sure things work in the most adverse situations. And while it might sound strange, the biggest compliment we can be paid is when the customer doesn’t even notice our solutions are there. Customers now expect to be connected at all times. And with the rise of social media they expect to be able to share their experiences in real time. That premier league winning goal, that world record breaking 100 metres, that incredible headlining performance – it’s my team’s job to ensure our customers are able to share such great moments.

We provide bespoke network solutions to over 100 events a year and monitor our network at around 300. This year my team were deployed to keep the major sporting competitions such as the Ryder Cup, Tour de France and Olympic and Commonwealth Games connected as well as all the headline music festivals including Glastonbury, Creamfields and Reading and Leeds.

On top of events, my team also provides temporary network coverage in a whole range of situations; such as providing cover when a permanent cell site is being repaired or upgraded. At O2 we’re currently undertaking a huge network modernisation programme right across the UK, investing millions every day to bring our customers a more resilient and faster 3G  network – we’re also working on the considerable feat of providing indoor 4G coverage to 99% of the population by 2017.  Using state of the art technology including our trusty COWs (cells on wheels) to help plug a coverage gap, if and when we have to take our cells off air during the modernisation process.

As you can imagine, no one day is the same for me and my team. It’s what I love most about my job. It’s all about problem solving using cutting edge technology and reacting to extreme environmental factors in order to improve the customer experience. Customer experience is our mantra and I’m humbled every day by the expertise of my team who constantly push technical boundaries to ensure a great customer experience.

As the famous Plato quote goes – necessity is the mother of invention. It’s the environments in which we work that force us to get inventive with our solutions. It’s actually what drives us to regularly producing network firsts. We provided the network infrastructure for the first truly digital Olympic Games at London 2012.  We were the first to provide a premiership football game with in-stadium 4G. And on November the 8th we brought 4G to Twickenham for the first time.

It’s a really exciting time to be working in networks at O2. Our network modernisation and 4G roll out is the quickest in our history and we’re already reaping the rewards.  Spirent, an independent test house, found that of the top 20 UK cities, O2 was first for data in 12*. We’re also the only network operator to be accredited with CAS(T) certification showing our commitment to network security and demonstrating the strength and resilience of our network to both public and private sector organisations.

For more information on our network visit our website.

*Spirent November 2014 press release