Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. is running the network for this year

How the Vancouver Olympics converged its network

If you’re watching television coverage of the men’s downhill skiing at the Vancouver Olympics next Saturday, chances are you will see a video stream that ran over the same network as the data network controlling the games’ logistics and finance functions.

Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. (TSE: BCE) says it has laid 5,000 kilometres of fibre at the Olympics venues in Vancouver and Whistler, providing 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of throughput for video feeds, photo file transfers and phone conversations.

“Every audio stream from every commentator at every venue runs on the Bell Olympic network,” said Justin Webb, Bell Canada’s vice-president of Olympic services and operations. “Every second of every video stream from every rights holding broadcaster is carried to the rest of the world on the Bell Olympic network.”

Ward Chapin, chief information officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), said the venues have a combined total of more than 6,000 personal computers, 7,000 two-way radios and 3,000 televisions.

The network uses switches and wireless access points from Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya Inc., which recently acquired the enterprise networking products of Nortel Networks Corp.

Dean Frohwerk, Avaya’s chief architect for the Olympics network, said in an interview the network has about 75 of the 8600 series Ethernet Routing Switches, originally made by Nortel and now owned by Avaya. To connect to the network, users would go through an Ethernet Routing Switch 5520.

“Every PC that plugs into the network, every wireless LAN session, every video stream, every phone conversation is running on Avaya technology through the Bell network,” said Dave Johnson, Avaya Canada’s general manager of Olympic programs.

Chapin said the games has wireless capability with an 802.11 Wi-Fi network so reporters can file stories and transfer pictures without having to connect to the wired network.

“We demand this is flawless during the 17 days of the games,” Chapin said.

Chapin and Webb made their comments during a press conference Monday.

Webb said athletes travel between events on buses that have flat TV screens on the walls so they can watch events. Those video feeds are carried through a private network that uses the same infrastructure as other voice, video and data applications.

Chapin said VANOC has more than 80 software applications for human resources, finance and other operations. For example, he said, everyone granted access gets a badge with their photo and a code stipulating which venues they have access to and where in those venues they can go.

“We interface our accreditation system to the (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) so they can do security checks on more than 100,000 people attending,” he said.

Frohwerk said Avaya devised a quality of service scheme with eight queues. The traffic gets classified at the end of the network using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ 802.1p protocol.

Functions such as scoring, accreditation and results are placed in high priority and voice is placed in priority below that. He added video is given a lower priority than the scoring and results, but news agencies can pay a fee to have their video traffic placed in a higher priority queue.

For wireless users, Samsung is offering Wireless Olympics Works, designed to push updates on the Olympics to smart phone users. Those with version 6.1 or later of Windows Mobile can download Wireless Olympics Works to their wireless device, said
Paul Brennan, Samsung Canada’s general manager for mobile communications.

Frohwerk said Avaya provided about 500 wireless access points using the 801.11a and 802.11g protocols.

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