In September 2016, the European Commission approved the merger of Wind and H3G in Italy to create a new company named Wind Tre. The two separate legacy networks of Wind Tre had problems like poor coverage, insufficient capacity and aging equipment, and could not support the evolution to 4G Pro and even 5G, which will undermine its market competitiveness. Therefore, network reconstruction and upgrade were in an urgent need. With advanced technology and delivery capability, ZTE exclusively won the bid for Wind Tre's national wireless upgrade project in December 2016.
The Wind Tre project was the largest and the most complicated network consolidation project ever undertaken by ZTE. It was the first time for ZTE to deal with the special site permits, all-round EHS requirements, GDPR and CPR regulations. Wind Tre also stated that this project is the most difficult one to complete in Europe in the past decade. ZTE was destined to fight an arduous battle.
Fast Running-in to Pass the Initial Test
The newly-formed Wind Tre had become the largest wireless operator in Italy. Wind Tre expected to complete the network upgrade quickly and reduce the start-up period, so as to drive the digital transformation. The start-up time for multiple services was required to be one to three months earlier than that required in the contract.
However, ZTE had no delivery experience in the local place at that time. So everything started from scratch. Facing this huge challenge, ZTE established a president-led project steering committee, which carefully selected project management members and senior business experts from around the world, and formed the project department. In the first month, the management team and key members were in place. In the second month, offices for four regions and 15 sub-regions as well as a local team were set up. Tests were finished in the third month, hence site construction was started as scheduled. Both sides established a good communication mechanism to enhance mutual trust. ZTE also worked with the subcontractors to set up a war room to solve problems end to end and build one team with one goal.
ZTE's efforts won recognition from Wind Tre. At the beginning of 2018, Wind Tre's senior management team came to ZTE's Milan-based office for a visit, during which they showed great appreciation of the hard-won achievements made by the ZTE team, and expressed full confidence in the cooperation between both parties.
Efficient Coordination to Create a Miracle of Delivery
The Wind Tre project delivery solution is complex, involving five bands, seven systems, hundreds of site models and thousands of antenna feeder scenarios. The key path of network consolidation reaches 270 days with many risks of uncertainty. Swap, overlay, building new sites, dismantling and other services were implemented concurrently. The number of sites delivered monthly exceeded 1,000, which means extreme difficulty in management. Italy has a very strict electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure limit (6 V/m), resulting in a fairly long period of obtaining permits and constraining the site construction process. In addition, the comprehensive EHS management requirements, together with the new EU and local regulations such as GDPR and CPR, also posed new challenges to ZTE.
ZTE's project team established a fast channel to connect with the company's senior management and headquarters to obtain resource assurance and full authorization, organized project-based global supplier conferences, and built industry chain alliances with customers and downstream partners. As to the delivery bottleneck on site permit, the temporary solution and the final solution were performed in parallel to meet the rapid network construction requirements of Wind Tre while maximizing internal efficiency. To deal with the complex and uncertain environment and numerous constraints, ZTE has formed a "334" project management method. This includes three management methods (precise objective management, efficient process management and delicacy management), three innovations (the organizational model with integrated rights and responsibilities, innovative solutions based on local conditions, and customized system tools), and four guarantees (talent cultivation guarantee, two-level resource pool fund guarantee, extended material end-to-end guarantee, and outsourcing resource guarantee).
After three years of painstaking efforts, ZTE's project team completed the relocation of more than 10,000 sites and network consolidation, and created a delivery miracle. The monthly output of permit files involved over 1,200 sites and the monthly maximum number of swapped sites exceeded 1,300, breaking the local historical records. ZTE has successfully helped Wind Tre complete spurts of progress several times, winning high praise and a project bonus of millions of euros from Wind Tre.
At the PMI (China) Project Management Conference 2019 held on October 26, 2019, the ZTE Italian Wind Tre project won the Project Excellence Award due to its excellent project management and efficient execution.
Sincere Services to Build a Quality Network
Adhering to the culture of "serving with dedication and being committed to customers", ZTE tries hard to provide high-quality services for customers. Guided by the ISO9001 standard and ZTE's own quality process, ZTE implements quality management to effectively control reversed sector, TMA, SWR and other quality problems while establishing a complete environmental health and safety (EHS) organization and operation mechanism to ensure personnel health and construction safety. At the first quality summit held by ZTE in 2019, Fabio Massimiani, chief architect of Wind Tre, shared some cases and expressed hope to create a new 5G ecosystem with ZTE.
ZTE dispatches R&D and technical experts to the front line to communicate with customers about product solutions and technology evolution to ensure the competitiveness of its solution. In addition, ZTE provides differentiated services based on customer needs, and provides high-quality network guarantee for major events such as Sicily concerts and Champions League. Wind Tre has the network performance greatly improved after consolidating two networks. As reported by the local media, the data volume in the integrated area increases by 270.0%, call drop rates of 2G and 3G calls decrease by 38.2%, the network availability increases by 2.4%, and the LTE DL throughput increases by 18.1%. In the network quality evaluation organized by P3, a well-known third party testing organization in Europe, the Wind Tre network ranked first overall with excellent indexes, making it the best local network.
Innovative Solution to Reduce Cost and Increase Income
Based on ZTE's unique Uni-RAN solution and highly integrated equipment, the Wind Tre network supports integration of 2G, 3G and 4G networks and smooth evolution to 5G, greatly reducing TCO. The number of base stations was reduced from 21,000 to 19,000 with energy savings of 25%. ZTE's self-developed energy & efficiency solutions further reduce energy consumption and improve system efficiency.
Successful project delivery contributes to the success of Wind Tre's business and brings long-term value. After the network consolidation, the operating expense as a percentage of revenue was reduced from 36% to 29%, and the EBITDA margin increased from 18% to 44% in 2018. By stabilizing the average revenue per active customer in 2019, Wind Tre keeps growing steadily in business performance. Wind Tre has achieved corner overtaking in only three years.
Wind Tre CEO Mr. Hedberg highly praised ZTE's capability and acknowledged the strategic importance of the cooperation. Wind Tre CTO Mr. Hanssen said during a media interview that ZTE is technically strong, and has accumulated much valuable experience during China's network construction, making it the best supplier for Wind Tre. At the project celebration meeting held on December 12, 2019, high-level leaders from both parties granted prizes to each other. Wind Tre's top management thanked again ZTE for its efforts in the past three years, and expressed hope that both parties will continue to cooperate faithfully on the 5G project and win the future together.