World Cup puts converged networking to the test

Next month's World Cup tournament will serve as a key proof-of-concept vehicle for converged voice and data networking...

Next month's World Cup tournament will serve as a key proof-of-concept vehicle for converged voice and data networking technology.

With 120,000 data and voice-over-IP telephone connections in 22 locations throughout Japan and South Korea, the World Cup's network will be the largest converged installation to date.

With media from around the world completely reliant on the network when covering the games, the stakes could scarcely be higher.

Gerard Gouillou, chief information officer at the Zurich-based Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), said this has been the most difficult IT project for soccer's governing body. But his team began running usage simulations on the network last week, and Gouillou liked what saw.

"The full deployment will not occur until 16 days prior to the event. But based on our testing, we do not anticipate any issues," he said.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group, said the World Cup provides a significant test case for IP telephony and voice/data convergence. "The world's watching them here," Kerravala said, although he added that FIFA should be able to pull off the networking job without many hitches if it is careful to get things right before going live.

"From our experience, any bad voice-over-IP installation has [happened] because the upfront work hasn't been done," Kerravala said.

FIFA enjoys one luxury that most other businesses do not - a vendor footing the bill for its network. Avaya has paid more than £70m for the right to build the networks for this year's World Cup, the 2006 tournament and the women's World Cup finals next year.

Avaya will supply the equipment and has dedicated more than 100 workers to this year's project. Doug Gardner, managing director of Avaya's World Cup effort, declined to disclose how much it will cost to set up and run the network.

He said a short time frame compounded problems of scale. Avaya was awarded the contract last June and has been required to set up in just nine months a network that would normally take two to three years to complete, Gardner said.

Gouillou said detailed attention has been paid to features such as redundancy, quality of service and network-monitoring capabilities.

Avaya built in 40% more switching capacity and network bandwidth than the expected peak usage levels, said Gardner.

Partnering with telecommunications providers in Japan and South Korea, the company also laid four trunk lines across the Sea of Japan to connect the tournament's two main IT centres. If a catastrophic failure occurs at one, the other will take over its operations, according to Gardner.

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment