Nortel to provide networks for London Olympics

Leveraging its experience as the network infrastructure provider for the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, Nortel Networks has won the right to do the same for the 2012 London summer and paralympics games.

Although the network design is still in flux, Dave Johnson, general manager of Nortel’s Olympic programs, said the company will supply at least 20,000 phones and 9,000 routers and wireless access points of all sizes to BT (British Telecom) and LOCOG, the London Olympic organizing games committee.

LOCOG announced Wednesday that Nortel will be one of its Tier One sponsors.

As the games’ carrier, BT will create a dedicated games voice and data network for serving LOCOG and the press. Johnson wouldn’t give a dollar figure for the contract, but said what Nortel will be delivering is “equivalent to building a dedicated telephone company to BT, and a dedicated Fortune 100 enterprise business to LOCOG.”

For BT that means providing carrier gear, while for the games committee it includes providing everything from call centres to IP security.

In essence, Nortel will be supplying and building a system about twice as big as it’s doing for Vancouver in 2010 because summers games are much larger events. In Vancouver there will be 19 venues, but in London there will be 34.

On the other hand, the venues on the coast are much more spread out than London. A dedicated fibre optic line up the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy. 99) had to be built to connect Vancouver to the Whistler area, site of downhill skiing, cross-country and bobsleigh events.

The network demands of a summer Olympics are huge. For the press alone international TV feeds will need tremendous bandwidth, while still photographers will want to upload thousands of images daily.

The London games will be the second Olympics with a converged voice and data network (Vancouver will be the first). As such Nortel will build a centralized management and administration system to oversee the network.

Understandably, as the London games are four years away, the network architecture hasn’t been set yet. Johnson said that will allow Nortel to take advantage of improved wireless and device standards to come that will help drive costs down.

The ever-changing technology landscape by the time the London games open will have another impact. “We know the requirements of spectators is going to be much higher (than now),” said Johnson, as more data-capable intelligent devices, PDAs and handsets hit the market.

In London, as in Vancouver, there will be a private WiFi network for organizing committee and the press, as well as a public wireless network for most venues. Johnson didn’t know if the public networks will be free. Use of other wireless access technologies, including WiMAX, hasn’t been settled yet.

Competitors for the network infrastructure contract had to meet general venue connectivity requirements set by LOCOG, show how they would design networks to meet certain assumptions and state any extra value propositions they could offer. Nortel stressed the energy efficiencies of its gear and network design, Johnson said.

“We really relied heavily on our learnings in Vancouver,” Johnson said of Nortel’s submission, honed it with technology changes that have occurred in the past two years, plus added components not in the Vancouver design such as the support centre.

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