Olympic Time Trials Use Wi-Fi Mesh

By Naomi Graychase

July 03, 2008

This week as Olympic hopefuls take to the track at the University of Oregon, they will not only be hoping for speedy time trials, but for speedy Wi-Fi connections, as well.

This week as Olympic hopefuls take to the track at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, they will not only be hoping for speedy time trials, but for speedy Wi-Fi connections, as well.eventLogo.png

Thanks to a Cisco indoor/outdoor wireless mesh network, roughly 4,000 American athletes will have free Wi-Fi access while they compete at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials, June 29-July 6.

The WLAN, which is integrated into the campus network, utilizes a combination of 5 Cisco WiSM blades with 10 4400-series controllers, as well as a standalone 4400 series wireless controller to support more than 500 access points, including Cisco Aironet 1500 Series lightweight outdoor mesh access points and Cisco Aironet 1240 Series lightweight access points. 

“We are using our existing unified wired and wireless networks, and expanding them with wireless mesh equipment donated by Cisco to help provide outdoor wireless coverage for the trials event. The university already started the process of deploying a wireless mesh network, and the Cisco donation helped us accelerate that deployment by providing the equipment for the trials,” says Dale Smith, Director of Network Services at the University of Oregon.

The network is also open to coaches, friends, family, fans, and the media covering the event. Planners had to allow for both the high level of anticipated usage in a concentrated area, as well as the need for mobility by users.

“We had to address the fact that the trials are being held at a single location on campus, as well as the fact that users would most likely be mobile all around the campus. This meant we had to plan our deployment to make sure that mobility within the trial area (Hayward Field track) happened only at the AP level and reduce the inter-controller mobility as much as possible, while at the same time allowing for mobility outside of the area,” says Smith.

"Compounding all of this is the fact that we are running two different wireless technologies. On one side, we are leveraging the University's existing wireless network, and on the other side, we are expanding it with a new wireless mesh network. We have been working with Cisco on this mixed environment.”

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The top three finalists at the 2008 Olympic Team Trials (Women's Marathon) held April 20th in Boston, MA.

Because this is an Olympic event, Smith and his team also paid extra attention to creating a secure and stable environment.

“The network was planned with as much redundancy as possible to avoid the failure of a single device or technology that would adversely affect the experience of most of the users,” says Smith. “Every component in the network has either a hot standby or warm spare in the case of a failure. The network itself is kept as simple as possible. When confidential information is to be transmitted, we rely on higher-level protocols and end-to-end encryption, helping us better troubleshoot the network and eliminate the false sense of security that is sometimes attributed to doing encryption on only the wireless segment of the communication.

“We actively monitor for utilization and performance within acceptable thresholds and advise our staff of any deviation from what would be considered expected behavior.”

The planning for the network began earlier this year. The first step, says Smith, was to define the expectations of the users and then identify the equipment that would best satisfy those needs.

“When we talk about the network we are talking about many different components: conduit paths, fiber optics for video and data, cat6 cable runs, switches, routers, access points, wireless controllers, monitoring, and documentation applications. We leverage the expertise of our engineers in the Network Services group to get the best design that would satisfy the event's needs,” says Smith.

Four days into the trials, the network is performing as well as the best athletes it is intended to support.

“Observed traffic levels associated with the whole event to date are 70Mbs peaks with averages over 24-hour periods in excess of 20Mbs. The large peaks appear to correspond to upload of large video and photos in the evenings after key events. The network was built to handle these peaks and usage and is not even breaking a sweat,” says Smith.

Once the excitement of the trials is over and the athletes, families, coaches, and press have packed up and moved on, the Wi-Fi network will remain in place.olympics.png

“The wireless network in Hayward Field was built to stay,” says Smith. “We also built some temporary coverage in areas where we normally wouldn't have much activity or that require temporary density coverage. Those temporary devices will be taken down, but the bulk of the network is staying to serve the University's community, as well as all events that take place at Hayward Field.”

For more information about the Olympic Trials, visit the USA Track & Field (USATF) Web site. The 2008 Summer Olympics will take place in Beijing, China August 8-24, 2008.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet, former athlete, and an avid fan of the Olympic Games.

Originally published on .

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