Overview

Field Solutions Group (FSG) invests in cutting-edge technology to create bespoke solutions that bridge the digital divide between metropolitan and regional Australia.

They provide mobile network services where other telecommunication providers don’t, connecting the under-serviced and digitally deprived. FSG is focused on digital solutions to reshape regional and rural telecommunications, and in partnering with businesses as well as federal, state and local government, they aim to innovate to offer all Australians affordable and effective connectivity.

Mantalus partnered with FSG to create an Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosted solution to deliver 4G mobile connectivity to mobile black spots in regional Queensland.

70%

Around 70% of the Australian landmass has no mobile phone coverage

10,000

It’s estimated there are up to 10,000 mobile black spots in Australia

1,000+

Over 1,000 base stations have been activated as of December 2023 through the Commonwealth Government Mobile Black Spot Program.

Background

Mobile phone coverage continues to be a sore point for many communities in regional and remote Australia. Despite most network providers stating they cover anywhere from 95 – 99% of the population, the reality is that the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Independent Committee report found only around one third of the Australian landmass is actually covered. In remote Australian communities, the effects of poor mobile phone connectivity are far-reaching. They impact everyday tasks ranging from operating eftpos machines in small businesses and working from home, to responding to life-threatening emergencies like bushfires and floods. Often the only alternative is high cost satellite services which cannot meet all use cases.

The Mobile Blackspot Program is an Australian Commonwealth Government funded grants program enabling the delivery of mobile telecommunications sites that aims to provide regional, rural, and remote Australia with improved mobile digital connectivity. FSG was awarded funding to deliver sites that support Optus 4G services that are now providing 4G signals to previously under-serviced or unserved areas.

Challenge

Field Solutions Group sought to address the technical and cost challenges associated with setting up mobile phone infrastructure in the field, partnering with Mantalus to use an AWS infrastructure solution as part of the government funded trial. Building cost-effective infrastructure for a telephony solution that services a known mobile blackspot is challenging. Typically, remote geographies remain black spots, as it is not economically viable for an existing telecommunications provider to service that area.

What is unavoidable is that mobile phone towers at some point are required to connect to the telephony backbone at an exchange or data centre. This remains a key factor in developing an appropriate blackspot solution. In cities and towns with existing telecommunications exchanges and/or data centres, this presents few issues. However, Australia’s vast regional spread, with small and disparate population centres hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from backbone services, results in huge stretches of the country going without robust communications coverage.

To solve this, the challenge is two-fold.

  1. Erecting affordable towers in remote areas, and;
  2. Connecting them to a new, dedicated telecommunications coverage backbone with ease.

This critical second element is where Mantalus and AWS were able to solve a complex technical challenge.

Solution

After selecting Mavenir as their telephony software provider, the next step for FSG was to determine where best to host the base level infrastructure on which the Mavenir telephony application would be deployed. Whilst the Mavenir solution had been deployed elsewhere in the world to solve similar connectivity issues, the vast distances faced in this circumstance were an entirely new challenge. After a rigorous selection process, it was determined that Amazon Web Services (AWS), and its extensive and publicly available network backbone would be the most appropriate choice to host the underlying infrastructure.

Using the AWS cloud, Mantalus successfully built a solution to host the Mavenir mobile telephony module selected by FSG for the project – to build the base of the FSG Regional Australia Network™. This allowed FSG to bring online trial mobile phone towers in regional Queensland, and have them integrate and route phone, sms and data traffic from the Regional Australia Network, back to their national telephony partner Optus. Once stood up, the solution also offered Inbound Roaming giving Optus mobile users the ability to access the FSG Regional Australia Network™ providing voice and data services via FSG towers.

Using AWS in this manner added an additional layer of security and resilience for the FSG. With almost limitless infrastructure capacity, and the ability to automate load management via ‘auto-scaling’, AWS provided FSG with class leading technology that also ensures costs can be tightly controlled. Auto-scaling allows the platform to grow and shrink to align directly with usage, meaning FSG would only pay for their exact capacity needs at any point in time.

Mantalus Mobile Telephony Hosting Solution

Mantalus Landing Zone + Kubernetes

The Mantalus AWS Landing Zone (MLZ) is built over three AWS Availability Zones to offer multiple ways to manage both availability requirements and load management. Availability Zones are highly available data centres in each AWS region; with independent power, cooling, networking and server infrastructure.

Mantalus used Kubernetes (K8s) to host FSG’s mobile telephony application. K8s is an open-source system for automating containerised application deployment, scaling, and management. This provided FSG with a unique telecommunications solution that combined AWS’s resilience and security with Kubernetes scalability, resource efficiency, and self-healing capabilities.

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Innovation

Mantalus and AWS provided a unique mix of technology to solve the challenge posed by regional Mobile Blackspots.

The AWS hosted solution designed by Mantalus provided FSG with a mix of scalable, resilient and cost-effective infrastructure; that would not be achievable in a traditional data centre.

Additionally, Mantalus built the end-to-end architecture as Infrastructure as Code (IaC), which provided FSG with another powerful lever for cost control. Environments and resources can be spun up rapidly for new developments, major events and load testing or spun down when they are no longer required – implementing new capability for ‘just in time’ infrastructure.

Key Solution Elements

Mantalus’ custom AWS infrastructure solution

Mavenir to AWS

This was the first ever Mavenir deployment on AWS globally. While Mavenir has been deployed to resolve similar telecommunications connectivity issues elsewhere in the world, this was the first time it had been used to connect the vast distances between backbone services in Australia.

Class Leading Architecture

Mantalus developed a class-leading architecture using Kubernetes, Internet Gateway, Nat Gateway, Transit Gateway, Direct Connect, VPCs, Tiered Subnetting – Public & Private, Account Segmentation (Workloads, Network, Security, Management, Shared Services etc) and Multiple Availability Zones.

Customised Network Connectivity

Mantalus’ solution proposed a customised network connectivity solution to address FSG’s unique User Plane traffic requirements between AWS Kubernetes (EKS) and the FSG Mobile Access Network.

Leveraging AWS Network Solutions

This involved leveraging AWS network services to establish end-to-end dynamic routing from the land based Radio Access Network to the FSG mobile core in AWS. The design facilitated a scalable and fault tolerant transmission path for voice and data traffic for FSG Mobile Subscribers.

Outcomes

One of Australia’s most critical telecommunications challenges – providing mobile phone connectivity to localised mobile network black spots – became one step closer to resolution after Mantalus and FSG partnered to provide an innovative AWS hosting solution in a trial to extend 4G coverage in regional Queensland.

By partnering with Mantalus, who created a design with multiple options for cost optimisation; FSG was able to successfully make and receive calls and SMS via their trial towers, as well as access mobile data services – making their Phase 1 trial a resounding success

The Mantalus AWS infrastructure solution used innovative design choices to ensure the success of FSG’s Mobile Blackspot Program.

The solution had to support the seamless integration of Mobile Telephony application components (Mobile Core – Control Plane, Packet Core, IP Multimedia Subsystem and Mavenir Message Controller). Mantalus provided critical consultancy and development to both FSG and Mavenir stakeholders to ensure that the application infrastructure requirements followed cloud best practices.

The design approach and the key choices Mantalus made to ensure FSG’s success can be readily applied to similar use cases in other industries. Mantalus can apply the learnings from this critical project to any organisation seeking to address the challenge of providing appropriate infrastructure for any highly available application that has intermittent usage spikes, in a cost effective manner.

Why Mantalus

Mantalus’ capability is built on being the tip of the spear to solve difficult and unique problems with AWS technology. Our strength is based on having consultants with an array of industry experience, who have themselves faced a litany of complex, business critical, technology roadblocks; and found creative and class-leading ways to solve them.

We’re great at developing AWS centric architectures, where none have existed before. Think platforms or middleware that have never been attempted on AWS by anyone; or even completely AWS native solutions, removing the need for expensive 3rd party solutions.

So, where can we be useful and important to you? Anywhere there’s pain.

When you’re scratching your heads with a tricky use case that doesn’t fit neatly into a known solution or reference architecture…. think Mantalus. We’re the cure!

AWS has a fantastic array of services – and if you partner with Mantalus we can use them to help you solve just about anything.

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