Connecting with Cornerstone's Operations Team...the lesser known side keeping our mobile devices communicating

Connecting with Cornerstone's Operations Team...the lesser known side keeping our mobile devices communicating

Thursday, 06 January 2022

With a cold snap coming in, we caught up with Cornerstone's Operations Team, who day to day ensure our mobile infrastructure estate keeps going whatever the weather, enabling connectivity for tens of millions of people up and down the UK.

Each year the team manage many incidents quietly, efficiently and effectively, to the point their work can almost go unnoticed, yet is vital for so many of us. One recent example is how Core Operations and our suppliers worked together to restore power across 74 sites, primarily in the Aberdeenshire area when Storm Arwen hit. Cornerstone's Chief Operating Officer, Denis Coakley, explains.

"We knew that Storm Arwen was coming, but did not know the scale of its impact. As part of our readiness planning to support our key Mobile Operator customer networks, we gave our suppliers (Mitie and Generator Power) the heads up to be aware of and monitor the situation. As we headed into the weekend, we started to receive more high priority tickets for sites with power down, which we actioned with our suppliers.

By late Saturday evening through to early Sunday morning, the number had risen exponentially to the point we knew we were in the midst of a Major Event. Patrick McCarthy worked with our customers and suppliers into the early hours of Sunday morning, ensuring all incidents were responded to appropriately. On Sunday, Patrick was joined by Chris Tennant, who, as a measure of his customer commitment, cancelled his planned leave allowing the two of them to work with Mitie and Generator Power.

Together with Generator Power, we pulled in generators from a 600-mile radius, transporting them to a central area in Aberdeenshire, which took quite some doing. We also needed to mobilise electricians from across the country from Mitie to cope with the added complexities of wiring in generators in difficult to reach locations.

Having sourced all the resources and all the generators, we then had to make a call about the weather conditions and if they were safe enough for people to work in, as some of the sites were still being battered by the storm. We had trees blocking roads, road closures, heavy snowfall and snowdrifts.

We prioritised the sites taking into account several factors such as population density for maximum benefit, geography and accessibility. The area we were working to restore power covered both rural and urban locations; it was wide-reaching, presenting diverse challenges. As you might expect, the urban ones were the easiest to access, with us needing to adapt the further out we moved. The team from Mitie went in advance, checking the accessibility for themselves and for Generator Power. Not only did we have to consider how to get to a site but also to ensure there was a safe means of deploying a generator.

Picture the scene. We were on the virtual frontline with Chris Tennant coordinating the generators and Andrew Dutton prioritising the sites working alongside the Mitie engineers. All with the added complication of not having any mobile coverage to communicate in certain areas with people on the ground! In some cases, we only knew if a site's power had been successfully restored when we got the call from the operator's operations centre to say a site was back up. As soon as we had confirmation mains power was back, we re-directed the generators to the next priority site. This continued until we successfully restored power to all sites by the 1st of December.

In situations like this where there is a significant impact, restoring mobile communications is vital to customers and whole communities.

The nature of Operations means that you are never quite sure what challenges each day will bring, but that is what makes it exciting and fulfilling!

I want to thank the teams in Cornerstone, our mobile operator customers, and our key partners Mitie and Generator Power for their professionalism and dedication in ensuring service were restored as quickly as possible during this challenging event."

We certainly echo those sentiments, Denis. What a great team effort, and who'd have thought of the logistics and coordination involved to keep our mobile devices connected during extreme weather conditions!