Why one man in Vancouver watches the Olympics in a different way

By Howard Solomon
Assistant editor, Network World Canada

As Justin Webb watches TV coverage of the Beijing Olympics, his attention is only partly on the athletes. He’s also visualizing a TV network’s feed flowing through fibre and taking notice how many in the crowds are taking pictures with the cellphones. Find out why.
Webb is Bell Canada’s vice-president of Olympic services for the Vancouver Winter Games, responsible for the networks the organizers and the press will need to stage and cover the event in 2010. So he watches the games with a professional as well as a personal eye.
On Friday morning he’s off to China for an 11-day tour of the facilities there to gain some insight into the problems being encountered and the demands of his future customers.
As the national telecom provider for Vancouver, Bell has to deliver the voice and data
network for organizers and the press, the fibre for high definition TV broadcasts, two two-way radio systems (a local one for officials at each venue and a wide-area system for a transportation system). A slice of wireless spectrum has been set aside so 7,000 being given to games officials won’t get busy signals.
On top of that Bell has to beef up the public cellular system around venues. At peak times – the opening and closing ceremonies – Webb anticipates spectators will make 3,000 attempts to connect a minute, likely trying to transmit images.
So you think you have network demand.
In an interview before leaving, Webb said the infrastructure work for Vancouver has already been done, including the installation of redundant fibre “rings” at each venue.
The fibre alone from Vancouver to the ski facilities at Whistler has the capacity to carry all of Canada’s telecom traffic.
What’s left, with two years to go, is the completion by a developer of the software for provisioning and setting the operational rules (who does what when a phone or service is ordered). Vancouver will be the first all-IP voice and data network Olympics, and Webb hopes it will “revolutionize” provisioning to users by automating much of the processes. There’s also no need for cable management to thousands of desks.
Much of the work has been done, Webb says, but looking at TV images from Beijing still leaves grounded.
“The torch is being handed to us Aug. 24 when the (Beijing) event is over,” he says, “and we’re going to be delivering all of that. The pace (of work) is going to accelerate dramatically to get to 2010.”

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