President, Avaya Canada

Soccer’s biggest tournament, the 2006 FIFA World Cup, will see 12 stadiums, 32 teams and a cumulative audience of 30 billion brought together by a converged communications network.It is one of the largest converged networks for one of the largest events ever held.Mario Belanger>Text

The 30-day competition, to be held in Germany in June, also requires a wireless LAN for 40,000 volunteers, 10,000 international press and an estimated 200,000 security clearances. It all adds up to the transport of an estimated 20 trillion bytes of voice and data traffic.

“It is one of the largest converged networks for one of the largest events ever held. If you are the service provider and technology partner that has to make it happen, it has to work flawlessly because all of the eyes of the world would be on you if it doesn’t,” said Mario Belanger, president of Avaya Canada, the company that is providing some of the network technology behind the effort.

Avaya completed the FIFA network construction last December, just in time for the final draw that determined which countries played in what group. Applications such as Avaya’s Communications Manager and Avaya G650 Media gateways are supporting the voice side of the network, while Extreme Networks Ethernet switching is being used for the transport of data.

It’s not the first time Avaya has been involved in building this sort of network.

The Baskin Ridge-N.J.-based company also provided the converged communications network for the 2002 World Cup held in South Korea and Japan. At the peak of the 2002 event, the network handled 100,000 voice over IP (VoIP) calls a day.

The 2006 tournament will feature several new capabilities. These include greater multi-media integration like cellular communications, instant messaging, video conferencing and the addition of soft phones.

Tracy Fleming, executive briefer with Avaya Canada, said specialists with experience in managing large-scale distributed networks were involved in the building of the 2006 World Cup communications infrastructure.

Securing the FIFA network against any malicious attacks such as denial of service was particularly challenging. According to Fleming, the high profile network is an attractive target for a community of malicious attackers.

“We have a giant bulls-eye on our foreheads with people thinking it would be fun to take the network down,” said Fleming.

To secure the network, intrusion protection systems and media encryption on voice was introduced in order to prevent such things as teams listening in on other teams to gain a competitive advantage.

While the size of the FIFA network may be larger than most enterprise communication systems, Belanger said that from a function standpoint, the FIFA network is not unlike many networks used in the business world. “If [the FIFA network works], imagine what we can do for enterprise customers across Canada and elsewhere.”

Fleming added that banks, in particular, might use a similar network topology to connect branch offices. Stadiums used for the World Cup are set up similar to branch offices, he explained. “There has been a stigma with [many] branch operations that [these may] only have a third of features common [at the head office] which has all the bells and whistles with nothing on the edge.”

A FIFA-like network offers the same communication features and capabilities to all locations, Fleming said.

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