Tackling the bandwidth issue at Sochi's Winter Olympics

Sochi Olympics
The next Olympic games are only a few weeks away

Dean Frohwerk, Olympic Architecture Solution Leader, Avaya, is part of the team responsible for delivering the communications network for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. In a series of posts, live from the 'coalface' in Sochi, he will be sharing with us the challenges involved in creating the network.

"For the past two years my team has been living and breathing the Sochi Olympic network. Now, there are less than three weeks until the cauldron is lit and the eyes of the world focus on Sochi.

The sheer scale of it all

Sochi will host approximately 5,500 Olympic athletes and 25,000 volunteers. 75,000 people are expected to visit the Olympic park each day and the Games are forecast to attract approximately three billion TV viewers. All members of the Olympic family - including athletes, officials, judges, volunteers and media - will be reliant on the Avaya network throughout the Games.

The high-profile nature of the network, along with the sheer volume of users and the importance of the traffic it carries, will create more pressure on it than you would normally encounter in a business. I compare the pre-Games period to opening several new bank branches at once, every day for a month straight, which are all immediately busy, and there is no room for any errors or delays with customers' transactions as they care deeply if there are any issues.

There's no downtime at the Olympics

When we first started planning the network, we knew that there is no tolerance for network downtime at the Olympic Games. From the outset we have been dealing in super-resiliency and flexibility. For example, with traditional networking technologies, it is not uncommon for the network to re-converge in 1-2 seconds.

However, we knew this time would be too slow for results, judges' replays and other critical information. Instead we have built an all IP-converged voice, data and video network that uses innovative technology to recover within 20 milliseconds of any issues arising. Additionally, with several outdoor competition venues, we have architected the network so that it is resilient to accidental fibre cuts, extreme weather and other factors.

The great unknown

While we know that there will vast amounts of data travelling across the network, one of the interesting challenges is that we have no advance knowledge of the number or type of devices that will be connecting to it, until they connect – and it will all happen more or less simultaneously – at the moment the Olympic cauldron is lit.

We also need to be ready for enormous surges in network bandwidth demand, based on events. During the games, we predict that the network will carry as much traffic as a small city and while we expect most of the traffic to be wireless, we cannot provision exactly.

The Games present a unique environment where you can go from 0 – 40,000 users, almost instantly, without any knowledge of what devices users will connect with, or what content and data they will be down and uploading. That's why resilience is so vital to the success of the whole event.

Next week I will be looking at the network challenges involved in the mountain and coastal cluster design of the Olympic venues."

  • Dean is Director, Technical Architects World Wide Solutions Engineering and is the Chief Solution Architect for Sochi 2014 Winter Games. He was previously Chief Network Architect for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games and led Avaya to flawless Games. Dean's Olympic responsibilities extend from the conceptual design, to architecture, deployment and overseeing Games time support.