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Issue 7: Current Developments - Signal Mountain Network

Case Study: ISDN / Frame Relay Network Conversion to VSAT

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Background

A leading movie theatre company in the United States had installed a number of single site Interactive Voice Response (IVR) teleticketing systems throughout the chain and wanted to deploy a new multi-site IVR system to provide teleticketing service to three cinemas connected to a single host site. The company had no network in place to provide connectivity between the theatres.

The cinema company asked the current principals of Signal Mountain (who were at the time employees of Radiant Systems, where they founded a WAN consulting group that later became Signal Mountain) for a high-speed, redundant network that would link theatres using the multi-site IVR system with one another and with the theatre management back office software vendor's support desk.

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The project was intended primarily as a proof of concept of the multi-site IVR solution, but the Wide Area Network (WAN) used to link the cinemas in the test program was also regarded as a first step in evaluating options for a national network of over one hundred cinemas in the continental United States.

Network Scenario

Geographic Characteristics

The enterprise was comprised of cinemas located primarily in the United States. For the purpose of the multi-site IVR project, four locations located within 10 miles of one another were chosen with one of the four cinemas selected as the regional hub for the IVR system. Analog phone lines, used by consumers calling to obtain movie schedules and purchase tickets, terminated at this hub.

Applications used on the network Initial applications intended for use on the WAN included:

  • IVR teleticketing
  • Credit card authorization
  • Help desk support

Future uses of the WAN were to include:

  • End of day sales reporting to corporate headquarters Signal Mountain Networks, Inc.
  • Internet ticketing
  • Corporate communications

Analysis Process

Signal Mountain evaluated the project from the standpoint of the following principal criteria:

  • Bandwidth utilized by each application per transaction
  • Typical daily usage patterns for each application
  • Performance requirements
  • High availability and reliability
  • Cost effectiveness

Based on the results of the front -end analysis, it was determined that a hybrid ISDN/frame relay network would provide a cost-effective solution. In the area where the four theatres were located, fully measured ISDN rates were among the lowest in the United States and the estimated monthly price at even the highest rates of usage were much less costly than the rates for frame relay or VSAT that could be obtained at that time. For the link connecting the four sites to the software vendor's help desk, however, frame relay was the most viable connectivity option.

The ISDN WAN was used for more than a year. During this time, however, prices for alternate connectivity solutions that included frame relay and VSAT fell dramatically. The ISDN WAN proved the viability of a network-based consumer IVR solution and the cinema company asked that the network be extended for the entire enterprise. Although the ISDN WAN had proven to be a reasonably reliable and cost effective solution for the limited geographic area of the four pilot sites, research showed that this type of network would be expensive and labor intensive to extend to other regions.

After evaluating frame relay and VSAT options, it was decided for reasons of network and price uniformity, proven reliability, and extensibility that a satellite solution was most appropriate to meet the cinema operator's needs. In less than 4 months, a VSAT network was rolled out to all the company's sites - just in time to support heavy IVR and Internet ticket purchasing traffic on the network prior to a blockbuster movie opening on the American Memorial Day weekend.

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