BACKGROUND: Comcast Cellular Communications, Inc. is the fourth largest non-wireline operator in the United States and the first in the country to achieve a complete conversion of its network to provide both border-to- border digital and analog service. They serve 8.2 million people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
PLATFORMS: Windows NT Server 4.0.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Thorough information is of paramount importance to the telecommunications industry. The GIS Engineering Group provides maps and geographic analyses for every division of Comcast Cellular. They depend on timely, extensive data and maps that show telecom boundaries, cell site locations and coverage, retail locations and various demographic analyses. The GIS Engineering Group was spending an inordinate amount of time producing hard copies of maps that depicted this always-changing information. People were constantly using different versions of these paper maps, since it was often difficult to keep up with the changes. Comcast Cellular wanted a way to make sure everyone had access to the most up-to-date information. MapXtreme, a mapping server for a corporate Internet or intranet, provides Comcast Cellular with the ability to view this pertinent information on the Web which allows everyone access to consistent information. Now, when they activate a new cellular site or have to order new hardware, engineers can visualize the telecom boundaries on a map. Previously, they had to manually look up this information in spreadsheet tables which was slow and tedious.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: MapXtreme provides Comcast Cellular with a way to analyze timely, extensive data in order to make well-informed decisions and strategies based on knowledge, not speculation. Since the information resides on Comcast Cellular's corporate intranet, all users have easy access to the information.
STRENGTHS: MapXtreme is compatible with all of MapInfo's products which was a huge benefit to Comcast Cellular which already had large databases of MapInfo maps and data. Being able to carry this information over to MapXtreme was a definite benefit. In addition, since MapXtreme is deployed over the Internet, it is easily scalable for additional users. Also, applications running on a managed server network offer huge economies of scale lower hardware and administrative costs while improving application performance, reliability and security.
WEAKNESSES: Comcast Cellular developers found that MapXtreme was not as easy to deploy as originally anticipated. The process may have been smoother if a contractor installed the mapping server.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Comcast Cellular has a five-year relationship with MapInfo using various products and has been extremely happy with the support and services. Comcast Cellular felt there was truly no other choice of a vendor when choosing a mapping server.
DELIVERABLES: Various departments at Comcast Cellular, including network and system performance engineering, network planning, marketing and intercarrier service (ICS), now have access to highly customizable maps which help them view pertinent information to complete projects and make effective business decisions. Users can set zoom settings and view necessary data, but they cannot effect any visual changes in the maps, such as moving borders. MapXtreme is deployed to 50 employees now, and Comcast Cellular is looking at rolling it out to 1,700 employees in the near future which will increase company-wide efficiency and make it easier to evaluate new business opportunities.
VENDOR SUPPORT: MapInfo is extremely responsive to Comcast Cellular's questions and needs. MapInfo spent a lot of time working with Comcast when deploying MapXtreme.
DOCUMENTATION: It took some time to understand the conceptual model upon which the technical specifications are based; but, in general, the documentation is very specific and complete.
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