Heroes behind the World Cup

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As a football fan who is also a telecoms professional, our colleague – Deng Zihang has the chance to support networks during the World Cup. He had summarized his experience in writing and posted it in Huawei People to share with all Huawei People around the world.

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, 8 p.m., July 15, 2018. Spirits undimmed by the sudden cloudburst, the French football team raised the World Cup trophy for the first time in 20 years. The crowd roared, and the 2018 Russia World Cup comes to a climax in a sea of celebration and cheering.

In the customer’s war room, the Huawei network assurance team sat, headphones on, eyes fixed on their screens. As the spike of network traffic gradually died away, one by one they sat back and took off their headsets. Someone said, “Whew, it’s over!” and the sentiment echoed around the room: “Finally it’s over, at last!”

In Zihang’s story, he talked about a few crisis situations that are unforgettable. He remembered, it was 20 hours before the match was due to kick off. There was an issue with the FIFA video feed connection. The team realized that the backup fiber had been cut off. Just 9 hours before kickoff, the customer told the team there was no way to repair the cable. Now came the emergency request: Within the next 5 hours, could Huawei find them a temporary “lifeline”? In other words, the team had to identify a third fiber optic cable routing for them, to ensure they had full back up on their transmission routes. This cable was over 1500km long! Normally, for that distance, the team would use active relays, but the customer told them that there was no active relay equipment in the base station, so they were going to have to manage transmission over 1500km with no relays.

Fortunately, the team technical director Sun Yaguang and WDM maestro Song Zhenyu knew this network well. They called up HQ experts, who looked over the network’s parameters, and examined how the equipment had stood up in other projects. Finally they decided that it could be done. After 5 hours of close collaboration, they managed to create a new link, a lifeline across Russia, and all indicators returned to normal as the data started to flow. During the game, the broadcast went perfectly, and in fact the backup connection was never used. The immediate response, fast work, and long experience with network assurance issues won high praise from the carrier customer.

On another match day, just 30 minutes before the match was due to start, the successful connection rate on one of the LTE RRC modules in the stadium suddenly started to deteriorate, and the PRS metric, which monitors network performance minute by minute, started to plummet. Every minute a new number would be calculated, and every new number that came out was like a punch in the guts for the team. Yang Cheng, leader of the wireless team, sprang into action with one of the radio specialists, Chen Jiaming. They started all kinds of tests and measurements, checking the alarms and running diagnostics, analyzing traffic, checking parameters… After 15 minutes of frantic work, they finally realized that there were just too many people on the network, and the problem was caused by uplink interference.

Once the base station parameters had been adjusted, they saw the number revert to normal, just in time for the beginning of the match. The national anthems of the teams rang out, fans waved their phones aloft to capture every passage of brilliant football… None of the audience knew that each one of these moments make the team anxious, as they sat behind the scenes. But every time the traffic figures ramped up, and the network connections smoothly took up the load, it was the perfect reward for the team’s hard work.

Every fluctuation in the numbers, every dropped packet and every jitter, every fault on a board… whenever a problem occurred, Zihang and the team would jump right on it: to analyze, to diagnose, to find the fix, and to keep the data flowing.

Over the course of that month, Zihang got familiar with the 4 a.m. skies over St. Petersberg. He and his team worked in concentrated silence, just behind the stadium which was erupting with cheers. They worked shoulder to shoulder with the customer’s engineers in the war room. In the Samara center, in the Global Technical Support Center in Xi’an, and in other locations all around the world, over 330 engineers collaborated seamlessly to ensure smooth communications for every match. Over the month, they dealt with 346 emergency issues; proactively eliminated 134 risk points; assured perfect transmission of video to the video referee and to global broadcasters with minimal latency. During the tournament, an average of over 32,000 people sent over 2.3 million pictures, videos, and text messages through Huawei equipment every single game.

Zihang mentioned in his writing that the chance to support during the World Cup is a memory that he will not forget. Although he did not even get to watch the World Cup live, he experienced every second of it, and he was watching the games in the network data. He gave the people using Huawei equipment the best possible experience, and as a telecoms man, he thinks that is his duty and honor.

This article was originally published on issue 295 of Huawei People.

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