Convention Center Opening a Total Success

Case Study: Total Communications and Cisco team up to deliver a communications system that Total will manage on-site.

When the state-of-the-art Connecticut Convention Center opened its doors in June 2005, communications provider Total Communications didnt pick up its tools and leave. Instead, the East Hartford, Conn., company settled in to stay.

In an innovative revenue-sharing arrangement with the CCC, Total is putting its assets on the line.

Exhibitors at the new $271 million convention center not only have IP telephony and high-speed and wireless connectivity at every turn, they also get Total for on-site management and support for all their voice, data and video needs. Total, in return, gets a piece of revenue generated by every event.

The CCC, which overlooks Adriaens Landing, Hartfords new riverfront district, offers more than 140,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and 25,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Designed and outfitted to compete with convention centers in neighboring states, the CCC has a 110-foot-tall glass atrium that rises 10 stories above a grand public plaza and a tree-lined riverfront esplanade.

The CCC, wired with fiber-optic cabling, offers advanced IP communications, Internet access and data network connectivity.

"For us, revenue sharing means that we go on the other side of the table and join the customer," said Jeff Nyland, director of multiservices at Total. "Together with the CCC, were a core team where we both need to be competitive to make the customer happy."

Totals revenue-sharing agreement with the CCC is a key part of the companys strategy to grow its business.

In November 2004, Total, a Cisco Systems channel partner, beat out 70 other bidders for the CCC communications RFP (request for proposal). Two months later, it began installation of an end-to-end Cisco solution with an integrated fiber-optic voice, data and video network. Total completed the project on June 1, 2005, one week ahead of schedule.

"We opened the convention center on June 2, 2005, with a business event that included 550 vendors and 10,000 visitors," said Katie Blint, the CCCs communications director. "The communications work was seamless and helped create a flawless experience for the customer."

To date, CCC events have included conventions, trade shows, weddings, galas and executive meetings, according to Blint.

When the convention centers RFP for communication services was issued, the concrete had been poured, almost 40 percent of the CCC had been completed and there was no financial consideration for wireless connectivity. Bidders were challenged to think outside the box, said Nyland.

"One thing we knew was that communications at the facility had to be best in class because wed be competing with convention centers in Rhode Island, New York and Boston," Nyland said.

The main concern of Ben Seidel, former executive director at The Waterford Group, of Waterford, Conn., was making sure that the communication technology put in place would still be state of the art when the CCC opened for business two to three years down the line. Seidel was responsible for developing the CCC team.

"I was concerned that the technology would be antiquated by the time the doors opened," Seidel said.

The RFP, Seidel said, brought to the table a number of solution providers that shared his belief that the communication infrastructure had to be continually evolving, reliable, redundant and flexible.

It was Total, however, that stood out from the crowd, he said.

To ensure it was getting off on the right track with its bid for the CCC contract, Total turned to vendor partner Cisco, of San Jose, Calif.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCisco boosts its Unified Communications portfolio. Click here to read more.

Total ultimately deployed a Cisco Catalyst 4507 switch for the core, layers 2 and 3 switching capabilities, and POE (power over Ethernet) switches that enable wireless access points and IP communications. Applications and new hardware on the network include Cisco IP Telephony, Cisco Call-Manager, Unity Voice Mail, Cisco IP phones and conferencing units.

"The convention center is one of the most demanding environments because its all about flexibility and speed to satisfy each customer," said Richard McLeod, director of united communications for the Worldwide Channels Team at Cisco.

The vendor and channel partner consulted on the engagement, design and installation of the Cisco network. The wireless network, in particular, was a challenge given the design of the building, which is about half-a-million square feet in size and made up of concrete and glass.

"Cisco worked with us to make sure that our models for wireless coverage worked," said Nyland, adding that the vendor provided ongoing support and a second set of eyes. "Cisco was our sanity check."

With its main office located approximately 2 miles from the CCC and its ISP division only seven blocks away, Total is a well-positioned partner. The company, which employs 200 people, is a single source of business telephone systems, LAN/WAN installation and support, local and long-distance telephone service, Internet services, and remote network monitoring.

"We wanted to be the single point of contact for all of the convention centers communications," said Nyland.

Established in 1980, Total has worked with both the government and the commercial sectors. One customer is the city of Hartford, for which Total runs a Cisco IP telephony solution that includes 6,500 phones in 65 locations throughout Hartford.

On the CCC project, the systems integrator worked with a Cisco account manager and a local team.

"As a vendor, we take our best practices and share them with our partners," said Ciscos McLeod. "In the case of the Connecticut Convention Center, were there for Total with engineers and continuous design and support."

Total, in turn, challenged Seidel every step of the way on how the convention center could best use the Internet and telephony.

McLeod stressed that the Total-CCC relationship is about commitment to support the customer beyond planning and deployment. "Its an approach we definitely like to see," he said.

Total is working to replicate the revenue-sharing opportunity with two other business partners. "This approach isnt something thats shrink-wrapped. It takes two to make it work," said Nyland.

Lynn Haber is a freelance writer in Norwell, Mass. Contact her at

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Case File:

  • Organizational snapshot: State-owned-and-operated convention center, with state-of-the-art facilities and communications systems
  • Business need: Design technology for a center that was two to three years from opening during a time of major advances in communications and networking technology
  • Solutions partner: Total Communications and Cisco Systems
  • Recommended solution: An end-to-end Cisco solution with an integrated fiber-optic data, voice and video network

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