Bell Centre scores wireless access

When you think of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, what first comes to mind? The legacy of Les Glorieux? Rocket Richard? Wireless IP phone networks?

You’d be forgiven if IP phones isn’t on the list.

But there’s a movement underway in Montreal to make the Habs’ home, the Bell Centre, a state-of-the-art wireless arena.

Montreal-based Nortel Networks and the Habs are teaming up to install a secure, wireless high-speed network in the Bell Centre, featuring VoIP phone service, secure wireless access and remote access for staff.

Pierre-Eric Belzile, executive director for information and communication technology with the Montreal Canadiens, says the Habs hooking up with Nortel is a natural fit for the hockey club.

“The Bell Centre has been serviced with Bell / Nortel telephony since construction [of the Bell Centre] in 1996. Nortel is a natural avenue for us, having already installed a Meridian Nortel Telephony switch system,” Belzile says.

“Last year we upgraded the switch to VoIP and unified messaging capabilities. We want to implement and transport this technology over our data network but we need to change our old hubs and switches and expand the network through all the levels of the building. We need to implement robust traffic and security controls.”

Brian Cann, account executive at Nortel, said his company’s relationship with the Habs has been powered by each natural step in the technical evolution of his company’s products.

“The Montreal Canadiens are a great example of a showcase for us here in Montreal. It was a great fit for us,” he says.

“One of the things we have to consider when we’re looking at a venue like that is that the customer keeps reminding me — the show must go on. You can’t call support to come in and fix a problem in four hours. You have to make sure there’s a level of redundancy, that’s something critical. It’s not your standard office building. When we’re looking at putting in wireless that has such an uncommon sort of structure, we make sure we do a good site survey.”

Initially, the Bell Centre’s cash registers will be able to securely accept electronic payment using Wi-Fi point-of-sale card readers, as well as handheld scanners that are being migrated to the new WLAN format in order to speed up processing of tickets.

“The Bell Centre is occupied almost each day of the year including week ends and late nights. Deployment and implementation cannot disrupt events operations. The Bell Centre venue is presently the fourth busiest venue in the world according to the magazine Pollster,” Belzile says.

The plan, Belzile says, is for network segmentation to offer better service for all the different aspects of the Bell Centre’s operations. The building’s also undergoing a backbone cabling revision to meet fibre optic needs for the core layer and an upgrade to Cat6 cabling in the distribution layer.

The core network layer for the WLAN will have high reliability, fault tolerance, and high redundancy, quality voice and data service, secure remote access voice and data, and secured network access. The network will reach the entire building at all levels with traffic filtered by priority, featuring network bandwidth going from 100Mbps to 2Gbps in the distribution layer.

Cann says that “one of the major benefits for staff is while they’re in the Bell Centre they’ll be able to move around with a wireless IP phone…. One other thing is being able to access remotely. The Montreal Canadiens and their staff follow the team from city to city to city. Many of them have a laptop and need remote access.”

Nortel also plans, under the new WLAN, to introduce the Handset 2211s, which the company says will provide mobile communications to different staff members, coaches, players and scouts.

QuickLink: 066527

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