A Kick Out of Wireless

Women's World Cup soccer tourney taps Avaya systems.

In an effort to further distinguish itself in next-generation telephony, Avaya Inc. will highlight wireless connectivity and its IP-based systems in networks installed for the Womens World Cup soccer tournament, which opens later this week.

Avaya provided the communications gear for the Mens World Cup in Japan and South Korea last year, and it is applying the lessons learned there to deploy systems in stadiums this year in Philadelphia; Washington; Portland, Ore.; Columbus, Ohio; and in Boston and Los Angeles suburbs. In addition, the Basking Ridge, N.J., company will set up a network at the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) U.S. headquarters in the Westin Hotel in Long Beach, Calif., where staff and management will use wireless IP phones.

This is the first time that a FIFA tournament will be entirely outfitted for wireless communications, according to Michael Kelly, head of IT Solutions at FIFA, in Zurich, Switzerland. Tournaments in venues with older infrastructure provide a good opportunity for the league to try out innovative technologies, such as wireless systems, Kelly said.

"That is the perfect place to use wireless because it saves us the time and expense needed to lay cable," Kelly said. "It will certainly be an improvement because it increases the flexibility of where FIFA staff and management can work."

This years project is considerably smaller in scope than last years because the womens tournament comprises about half the number of teams playing about half the number of matches. Avaya will deploy about half the volume of equipment it deployed in Japan and South Korea, said Doug Gardner, managing director for Avayas FIFA World Cup Technical Program.

However, an unanticipated time constraint complicated the preparations, adding last-minute challenges to the deployment. The tournament was originally to be played in China, but the SARS scare prompted FIFA in late May to move it to the United States. To further complicate the deployment, unlike the stadiums in Japan and South Korea, the U.S. arenas are not dedicated solely for the tournament. Some, including the Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles, are football stadiums, and Avaya will have to dismantle the network after the first round of matches and then reassemble it later.

The time constraint only encouraged the deployment of wireless systems, Gardner said. In Portlands PGE Park, Avaya is installing wireless access in the makeshift press box because there was not enough time to install cabling.

"This year, we have to make fairly quick decisions on the run. There may have been better alternatives," Gardner said. "Had we had more time, we may have been able to run cable up to the press box in Portland."

Avaya is installing three or four routers and five to 10 switches in each stadium, and traffic will travel over T-1 lines provided by local carriers, Gardner said. Negotiations with service providers were rushed, but the providers did not take advantage of the short cycle. "Were cutting it very fine," Gardner said. "But they havent held us to ransom."

Gardner said he expects to connect 500 devices at each stadium, with as many as 4,000 devices in use on the network over the course of the tournament. While 12 terabytes of traffic traveled over the Avaya network during the Mens World Cup, about 30 to 50 percent of that volume will be carried during this tournament, he said.

Much of Avayas efforts will benefit the hundreds of journalists who are expected to cover the matches in stadiums not necessarily built to accommodate them. Avaya is providing Wi-Fi cards to reporters, who will be able to download real-time match results and historical data from their own laptop computers in the press box.

If everything goes as planned during the Womens World Cup this year, FIFA and Avaya plan to accelerate wireless communications at the 2006 Mens World Cup in Germany.

"In 2002, we had a couple wireless pilots that worked out very successfully," FIFAs Kelly said. "Were learning from this tournament, so that in 2006, we can find additional ways to use wireless to lower costs."