Managing a voice deployment is a complex task, often involving a number of carriers. Doing it in the middle of a pandemic is hugely challenging for any IT team. Especially when it is urgently required to support telecommuters at scale, where bandwidth also has to be scaled up to meet demand.

This is exactly the scenario Orange Business Services found itself in. The COVID-19 crisis hit just as Orange was deploying a voice upgrade for an international engineering company.

As part of its digital transformation, the engineering company was in the process of moving its voice platform to sit alongside recently adopted Microsoft Skype for Business. The chosen voice platform, Orange Business Talk, allows the company to rationalize telephony services and better manage calls: outbound, in-bound, on-net, off-net, local and international.

The pandemic was in danger of seriously disrupting deployment schedules as other complex issues emerged. Network capacity issues were looming as knowledge workers were forced to telecommute. In addition, incumbent telcos were preparing to shut down legacy systems, which would leave the company without voice services. The engineering company asked Orange to push to hit the original deadlines in place to avoid operations shutting down.

Delivering a project in the midst of a pandemic

COVID-19 wasn’t the trigger for initiating the engineering company’s voice project, but the crisis was the catalyst to ensuring that it was delivered as fast as possible to keep the business open. The company needed to get 1,500 knowledge workers working from home fast. The mass homeworking program, however, was set to cause capacity issues on the network. The company had remote working capabilities prior to the pandemic, but not at the scale the coronavirus crisis demanded.

At the same time, COVID-19 put huge pressure on several voice carriers Orange was working with, which meant that some calls were unsuccessful due to lack of capacity. Orange worked around the clock with its partners to carry out a capacity upgrade in 24 hours, allowing calls to be swiftly routed to the right voice carrier to overcome the problem.

Increasing bandwidth for remote workers

The next big hurdle was bandwidth to support knowledge workers working from home. To upgrade bandwidth on the MPLS network, Orange swiftly upgraded two circuits in Singapore and Australia.

In South Africa, an MPLS upgrade was not possible as carriers there didn’t have the immediate bandwidth. This made the issue potentially very complex and hugely time consuming. One luxury Orange did not have on this project was time, and an innovative work around was needed quickly.

Orange came up with a band aid. It reconfigured the primary and back-up MPLS circuits, dedicating one line to remote VPN users, thus providing additional bandwidth without impacting the network. The Orange team of experts took just 48 hours to develop the work around, from understanding the problem through to design and delivery.

Splitting the services maintained network resilience. This was achieved via an in-depth analysis of the network. Orange studied the network’s historical records and worked out the limitations of each circuit. Despite both circuits being used simultaneously, Orange has designed it so that if one circuit fails, all traffic will automatically switch to the other circuit.

Orange has also provided the engineering company with advice on split tunnelling, which the company has instigated. This technique enables some home networking traffic to be off-loaded onto the Internet. This reduces bottlenecks and conserves bandwidth as Internet traffic doesn’t have to pass through the VPN server.

The company had recently carried out an SD-WAN transformation. Although this isn’t directly supporting the knowledge workers, it has provided the IT team with the network capacity for a full and efficient backup, following the application migration without worrying about system crashes.

Highly responsive in a crisis

As the pandemic started to unfold, it looked like the voice deployment schedule would slip and cause additional problems for an influx of telecommuters who also required extra bandwidth to work from home.

Orange has proven itself highly responsive in a crisis. It has enabled the engineering company to keep its global business operational, despite deployment, migration and bandwidth challenges that emerged as a direct result of the pandemic.