Networks Supersized for Democratic Convention

With more than 50,000 tech-savvy politicians, aides, wonks, delegates and journalists descending on Denver next week for the Democratic National Convention, you can imagine that any network deployed at the convention site will have to be huge.

Qwest already has completed much of the heavy lifting to upgrade its network deployment at Denver's Pepsi Center. It has laid down an additional 3,400 standard voice lines and 2,600 new data lines, and has upgraded its infrastructure with 3,344 miles of fiber and 140 miles of copper and coaxial cable. Additionally, Qwest is deploying video equipment that can handle 130 simultaneous video feeds, and is providing convention goers with a 40Gbps Ethernet pipe.

The 40Gbps Ethernet network will deliver speeds head-and-shoulders faster than did the network deployed at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, which relied on DSL capabilities for Internet access, says Rick Mabry, Qwest's director of network operations.

"It will be 10 times the size of the Super Bowl," Mabry says. "The scale of this network is so large that instead of laying stuff down on the ground, we put it underground and are bringing it up to where it's needed."

Qwest began working in earnest on deploying and upgrading the network in May, two months before the Democratic National Committee took official ownership of the Pepsi Center for the convention. The company decided to lay down most of the cable under the convention floor, then bore holes up to major hubs where people are most likely to need high-speed Web and voice connectivity. The company also is selling bandwidth to individual customers who want their own personalized connections to the Web on the convention floor, with offerings ranging from 10Mbps to 1Gbps.

Cellular Boost

While landline Web and voice connectivity obviously is a big part of the DNC's network needs, there's also demand for high-quality wireless voice and data services for Blackberry-wielding convention goers who might not have time to sit down at a designated Internet terminal with their laptops. For those capabilities, network infrastructure company ADC will deploy its InterReach Fusion in-building cellular systems to deliver multicarrier cellular signals to the Pepsi Center, Invesco Field and other official convention locations.

"The equipment that we're installing basically looks like a Wi-Fi network that's geared for cellular coverage," says John Niedermaier, ADC's vice president and general manager for in-building wireless services. "What happens is that wireless operators will put in base stations on-site, and from those base stations we will transport their signals from various parts of the buildings through antenna points."

ADC's system has been designed to hold up to the heavy wireless traffic anticipated at the convention, and it can simulcast to "any part of the convention center," thus allowing the company to shift signal strength to where there is the most activity, Niedermaier says.

In total, the company is deploying 23 InterReach Fusion hubs that support signals from multiple carriers and frequencies from 800MHz to 2.1GHz, 25 expansion hubs that convert optical signals to electrical signals, and 92 remote antenna units that receive the electrical signals directly to and from wireless phones and PDAs. Because ADC is expecting an unusually high amount of wireless activity, Niedermaier says the company is preparing for as much as 10 times the capacity it would normally need when hooking up as large a site as the Pepsi Center.

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