Vancouver 2010 to run entirely on Bell IP network

The upcoming 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver will be the first entirely Internet Protocol (IP) network in the Games history with a 285-km fibre optic cable network connecting the cities of Vancouver and Whistler to 130 venues.

The voice, internet and data services for the Games will run on the IP Olympic infrastructure setup, representing about 20,000 ports, by Bell Canada, said Justin Webb, vice-president of Olympic services and operations with Bell.

“We are all the things you don’t see,” said Webb, referring to activities like scoring systems and broadcast cameras that run on Bell’s network.

“Yet we are absolutely fundamental to the world seeing it online, on TV, online or in the flesh as a spectator,” said Webb.

The 130 venues include competition venues as well as non-competition venues like the medical centre, International Olympic Committee hotel and the international broadcast centre.

Aside from wireline services, Bell is also providing wireless services and has built a temporary cell tower to support mobility services for the athletes as well as spectators.  

What is probably least expected from Bell, said Webb, is a two-way radio infrastructure upon which the Games will run. The infrastructure is setup at each venue as well as a macro network from Vancouver through the Sea to Sky Corridor to Whistler for the logistical element of the Games like transportation.

“It’s a crucial element of the operations of a sport,” said Webb. Seven thousand two-way radio devices will be deployed as part of the Games.

Bell is also providing the portal by hosting, connecting, distributing, and providing the content management platform for the site. “So we’re very much a large, large component of,” said Webb.

The investment by Bell in services for the Games is valued at $60 million, which includes voice, data, internet, PCS, radio, cabling, hosting, content distribution.

Bell decided on a converged IP network to ensure simplicity and flexibility for the Games duration of 17 days and a customer base from around the world, said Webb. “A 10-meg internet circuit may not be the same in Germany, in Japan, in Canada,” said Webb.

Bell recently underwent a technical rehearsal to simulate the impact of various events on network capacity, said Webb. Other non-technical rehearsals covered potential events like evacuation, H1N1 and injuries.

The fixed deadline of Friday, Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. Vancouver time, when the Games begin, presents a “tremendous challenge” to Bell, not to mention the fact that the project has grown in a manner akin to a startup expanding to an enterprise with 30,000 employees, said Stephane Boisvert, president of Bell Business Markets.

“When you get to that size of the number of employees, you get suddenly from a startup to a Fortune 500 type business,” said Boisvert.

VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) is a microcosm of industries including health care for drug-testing centres and athlete health records, and retail for ticket sales.

Bell Canada sought to learn as much as it could from the service providers of former Games in Salt Lake City, Torino and Beijing. “Wherever possible, we have gleaned that from past Games,” said Webb.

Nortel is a preferred supplier for Bell’s services infrastructure for the Games, yet there has not been a negative impact by changes to Nortel’s business, noted Webb.

Equipment necessary for the Games was purchased in advance from Nortel, said Webb. “We have everything we need from Nortel either deployed or in a warehouse,” said Webb.

Bell has also locked on every software release such that no new versions or patches are required, said Webb. And, Nortel is providing level three technical expertise for the Games, a source of support to which Bell will continue to have access, added Webb.

The challenge, as for any Games services provider, is setting up an entire separate network from scratch with real-time requirements, said Lawrence Surtees, principal analyst with Toronto-based research firm IDC Canada Ltd.

But while Surtees said Bell probably does have the situation under control, the changes to Nortel’s business must have caused a stir.

“I would think it would have to be a source of some consternation,” said Surtees.

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