Unless youve been hiding under a rock, you couldnt have
failed to notice furore surrounding David Beckhams Achilles
tendon injury that has prevented him getting on a plane to South
Africa this summer.
Now a nation waits with baited breath praying Wayne Rooney doesnt
become Englands latest injury victim.
Thankfully, the World Cups IT and communications infrastructure
isnt left to chance, with all participants in South Africa
including the teams, officials, broadcasters, media and staff
needing secure real-time telecommunications that rely heavily on
To put things into perspective, during the FIFA World Cup in
2006, more than 21 terabytes of voice and data traffic were
transferred over the event network by the 32 teams, FIFA
officials, local organising committee, media and other
According to FIFA this translates to around eight years of
continuous MP3 music and is the equivalent of the 24 million
volumes of books, photographs, recordings and other information
held by the worlds largest library, the US Library of Congress.
As one would expect, the demands come from the high level of
mobility and flexibility that the user community now has at these
forms of events, explains Dick Wiles, co-CEO of Match Event
Services, who has been running FIFAs communications Solution
Wiles believes the expectation is for IT and communications
services to be available anytime at any location.
This creates a demand for a seamless solution that provides
connectivity across all locations in a venue, he adds.
Meeting the data demands of a large number of spectators in a
relatively small area will always require a high level of
planning, both from network operators and the owners of the
building or stadium involved, adds Dennis Mugwanya, VP of sales
and marketing in Africa at Andrew Solutions, the company
supporting wireless communications across five of the stadiums at
He believes weve seen a huge increase in the level of network
capacity required over recent years, from basic voice services
through to the rapid growth in data consumption brought on by
increased smartphone usage.
According to Mugwanya, a major consideration for the World Cup
stadia involved distributing capacity to specific areas that
require more bandwidth than other parts of a stadium.
For example, this means the emergency services and media centre
have dedicated coverage and capacity to manage concentrated
activity in those areas, as well as ensuring an even greater
level of reliability.
An equally important consideration is to ensure a seamless
handover from one area of the stadium to another so that calls
are not dropped.
As spectators move around the stadium and move up and down
different floors, its not uncommon to see an individual go
through 15 separate handovers during one call, so a robust system
needs to be in place to accommodate this.
To do the job, the stadia are using a multi-operator ION-M
optical distributed antenna system from Andrew Solutions that
supports current GSM 900/1800 and UMTS frequency bands as well as
next generation LTE and WiMAX networks.
With its flexible design and high power output easily customised
to the unique spatial requirements of each stadium, it helps to
overcome signal interference.
Its basic architecture involves fiber-optic and coaxial cables,
master and remote units, and other subsystem products, which
receive and transmit signals from dedicated operator base
stations to customer handhelds throughout the facility.
In some cases a temporary solution is brought in to meet the
communication requirements of high profile events, adds Mugwanya.
As football stadia receive surges in wireless data demand on a
near weekly basis, a dedicated system is needed so that the
impact on nearby subscribers isnt affected.
In the last few major sporting events, including the 2006 World
Cup in Germany and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Mugwanya says
that Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) have been successfully
used to provide the wireless coverage.
A similar highly adaptable system, which can be designed to suit
almost any building, frequency and any number of operators, will
also be used at the World Cup this year.
Mugwanya says that Andrew was previously involved in providing
this solution for the tournaments in Germany and Beijing, so
believes its reliability and performance has been well tested
ahead of the competition in South Africa.
Vodacom chose the company to provide the DAS system in all five
stadia that the operator is responsible for because this system
allows several operators to support their customers wireless data
demands throughout the tournament.
One important feature of the systems design was to ensure that it
could be used long after the tournament is over and support the
next generation of mobile technologies, such as LTE.
This needed to be flexible enough to support all current and
future frequencies, including LTE and WiMAX, as well as multiple
operators, adds Mugwanya.
The first stage of designing the DAS, where we used a combination
of Computer Aided Design (CAD) and our own tools and expertise to
map the expected wireless footprint, took around two to three
weeks, he adds. The team then conducted a site survey to
determine where the equipment could physically be installed,
which took around one to two days. The third stage lasted for
around three to four weeks and involved installing the DAS and
conduct a Walk Test to optimise the system.
Mugwanya says the whole process took around two months with
refinements made during dry runs, such as rugby matches and other
events taking place
in each stadium.
The Confederations Cup, an international football tournament and
precursor to the World Cup, took place in the host stadia giving
us the perfect environment to test the system, he adds.
Interestingly, the DAS in the stadia have been designed to
provide increased wireless capacity for the emergency services
using traditional frequencies, with the system guaranteeing a
dedicated channel for the emergency services.
This time around new elements are being implemented to take
things to a new level though. One is solution based and one is
commercial based, adds Wiles.
The first is that given the large penetration of cellular
services in the South African market, many solutions that require
a great deal of flexibility are being solved with 3G routers
provided by MTN, he adds. These routers allow for the service to
be based on a 3G signal that is then sent as a wireless signal to
Wiles says this allows for the solution to be easily installed in
locations where cabled solutions may not be possible, pointing
out that base internet services are being offered to the media
For the stadiums Wiles explains that FIFA depends on various
solutions depending on the particular requirements.
So, for solutions that require a high level of security and
dedicated bandwidth he says that FIFA will use a wired solution
leveraging a large domestic dedicated network.
TETRA will be used for the radio solutions where a high level of
dedicated mobility is needed, he adds. 3G services will be used
in some locations where a cabled solution may not make sense and
a high level of flexibility is