Network Technology to revolutionize soccer stadiums into multimedia high-tech arenas

By Vinod Yalburgi | Published on Jan 01 1970
Network Technology to revolutionize soccer stadiums into multimedia high-tech arenas

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If you are a soccer fan, you might have experienced those nerve-wracking moments in a game, redeeming goals, fast moving frames and slow motion replays. The eyes of the world seems to be transfixed on the soccer stadiums of South Africa right now. Like any good contest witnessed on a large stage, the World Cup is a memorable experience and provides a wealth of information and data on matches, teams and competition. But one would wonder, how do all these images and pieces of information get displayed on the gigantic video boards in the stadiums & public viewing sites and simultaneously telecast over the television and the Internet? How does a soccer stadium communicate? These are just a few questions that often go unanswered in our minds!

Swiss cabling specialist Reichle & De-Massari (R&M, has reportedly stated, “Modern data networks ensure that all systems in a stadium are always on the ball. They handle extraordinary peak loads while integrating numerous functions, so they have to be absolutely reliable.” R&M is said to have recently installed a network infrastructure at the new Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine, the venue for the EURO 2012. To be specific, it reportedly laid 60 kilometers of fiber optic cable and more than 400 kilometers of shielded Cat. 6 copper cable in the arena. This network is apparently one of the largest ever installed in Ukraine, boasting 6000 copper and over 1700 fiber-optic connections.

Multimedia high-tech temple – convergent networks

Stadionwelt, a German journal on sports stadiums, has purportedly noted that soccer stadiums are becoming temples of high-tech multimedia. Gigantic data quantities are said to flow as digital TV images from the stadiums to the broadcasters and TV companies during international events. Telekom Austria has estimated that its fiber optic network transmitted a total data quantity of two Petabytes during the EURO 2008. That is expected to be about five times the data quantity in all the books ever written till date. Yet a stadium is designed to deliver far more than just television transmissions, be they in high definition (HDTV) or 3-D. Today, large stadiums mirror information hubs producing large amounts of real time data that place demanding requirements on infrastructure.

Reportedly, the football used at the World Cup now proposed to incorporate a chip in it, allowing its position to be determined to the nearest millimeter. This feature happens to be the latest hit in a fascinating technological evolution concerning the “King Soccer”. Numerous antennas are said to follow the interactive ball. This is said to be the proposed plans for a smart hi-tech stadium stating that, “the antennas are placed around the playing field or in the roof. They communicate over the building network with a computer system that provides the referees live support while they are on field.”

The same network is designed to allow photographers on the sidelines to feed their digital photos from a camera or laptop directly onto the Internet or to their editorial offices within seconds. Access controls, monitoring of viewer stands, alarms, electronic ticket and cashier’s systems, control of light, heating and ventilation systems... all these various systems can now be integrated into one central control system while building the network.

Read on to know more about the proposed technology behind the soccer stadiums of the future in the next page...


Markus Schlageter, Head of Marketing at R&M, has reportedly quoted, “Those are just a few of the applications that can be integrated using the standard Ethernet Protocol and Internet Protocol (IP). Convergence is opening up even further interesting dimensions to managing stadiums, facilities, sports and special events.”. As per the sources, only a single platform is needed for wireless LAN, phone and broadband Internet, video and audio transmission in the stadium and to points outside it. The same is said to be true of the data traffic generated by the stadium management or the communication conducted by the media. IT consultants specializing in arenas, stadiums and other large event venues have reportedly confirmed that convergence is a reality for them too, similar to the situation in office buildings and in private homes. Convergence apparently requires appropriate IT infrastructures and multiservice networks all based on far-sighted, competent planning.

In its guidelines for data and communication networks in stadiums where competitions are held, FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, has set down straightforward rules, stating that, “It is usual for the stadium owner or operator to offer, allocate and maintain a standard cabling system for the entire stadium.”

Data center in the stadium – efficiency through IP

Huge soccer stadiums such as the Allianz Arena in Munich or the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid are reported to have their own data center integrated in their operations. Coaches, players and fans of Real Madrid, for instance, could access a data archive over radio and Internet that already contains several terabytes of videos, images, reports and statistics for analysis and planning.

Employing data center technology, it is said that, irrespective of where people are located in the extensive sports complex, they could work on a laptop, hold conferences or download game scenes from the archive to optimize training sessions. The standard IP network could be used for the remote control of building service installations as well as the peripheral equipment in the stadium and even the traffic control system.

The Madrid stadium was reportedly able to boost the efficiency of its operations by 50 percent using communication and control equipment interconnected in standard networks. Service, maintenance and adaptations of the structured cabling are estimated to cost only half as much as earlier solutions. It is deemed that only eight people would be needed to handle all the functions centrally in a top match played by Real Madrid with 80,000 spectators.

Another example of the application potential of local area networks (LANs) is Letzigrund stadium, newly built in Zurich for the EURO 2008. Live TV images from the playing field could be transmitted to all lounges, even though there are said to be no coaxial cables installed for this purpose. So that the TV broadcasts run over the data network instead. The TV signal is then purportedly converted and top quality TV footage is fed into the LAN using the CATV solution from R&M. All 20 LAN sub-distributors in the stadium building are said to be fitted with CATV panels. Beat Schmutz, Technical Building Manager at Letzigrund has reportedly stated, “That is added value for us and for stadium guests. We can route a TV broadcast quickly and cheaply to wherever it is needed at any given time.”

Read on to know how video monitoring plays a critical role in competitions held at big stadiums, in the next page...


Video monitoring plays a big role in competitions held at large stadiums. It helps to detect risks and unrest quickly or to guide flows of spectators and traffic from a single control stand. It is said that with structured cabling, cameras can be integrated in the stadium data network using IP (Internet protocol) and linked, for example, to alarm and signaling systems, remote control, server and backup or to the information system of the security staff.

If “Power over Ethernet” (power supply via a LAN) is used, evidently no additional power cable is necessary for camera operation. That necessarily cuts installation and maintenance costs, particularly in stadiums where cables have to be laid over long distances. R&M strongly advises customers stating that, “You need high quality twisted pair copper cabling to use ‘Power over Ethernet’ reliably and effectively for a data network.”

Structured cabling – highly available operations

R&M reminds customers: “The prerequisite for highly integrated network operations is cabling that has a modern structure and is neutral in terms of application. It should comply with the 11801 ISO/IEC standard or the EN 50173 series of European standards.” Because arenas are subject to specific peak loads, the ISO/IEC 24702 standard for industrial and outdoor applications can also be consulted for planning. This lets users adapt their infrastructure specifically to tougher environmental influences such as dust, moisture and mechanical loads.

The result is a sturdy and extremely failsafe network. The FIFA demands availability of 99.999 percent. That corresponds to the criteria for high performance data centers. Markus Schlageter says: “Each network interruption can cause a painful loss of license and advertising revenues. From that standpoint, it is understandable that FIFA sets such tough requirements.” R&M defines its own goal to provide an installation that is 100 percent failsafe. To that end, R&M has reportedly set up a quality management system extending all the way from production to installation and maintenance. It is said to cover planning support for and delivery of factory-tested cabling units pre-terminated and cut to size.

Read on to know how a standard based planning helps in integrating stadium communication & control systems in the next page...


Standard-based planning with an eye to the future

Structured cabling is generally said to possess a central distribution site. From there, you could plan the main cabling routes, backbones (hubs) and rising mains. Long transmission distances have to be covered in a stadium because of its enormous size, so fiber-optic cables are preferred as the sensible choice for the backbone. On the various floors and in the functional areas, stadium operations are designated to continue with copper cabling laid in a star shape to the individual connection points. Shielded copper cabling is said to be the ideal choice, being non-sensitive to electromagnetic interference.

All workstations - from the ticket booths to the stadium offices and from the press boxes to the coaches’ bench and every connection for terminals – are said to have identical standardized interfaces, usually two to four RJ45 connector sockets. That necessarily allows the simple plug-and-play integration of computers, phones, printers, sensors, monitors, cameras or wireless LAN antennas in the network.

The Swiss national stadium in Wankdorf near Bern known as “Stade de Suisse” has reportedly gone a step further in integration. The planners there apparently relied on the Extended Office Cabling (EOC) platforms from R&M for networking their functional areas, lounges, catering and offices. Extended Office Cabling (EOC) is meant to combine communication cabling and high-voltage current supply in ceilings, false floors, parapet cabling ducts and columns. Thereby, the lines could be laid quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently to all connection points.
Based on R&M’s experience, network cabling today should be able to satisfy the requirements of Class EA according to ISO/IEC 11801. The goal is to provide performance for broadband transmissions at 10 Gbit/s Ethernet, so that sufficient reserves are built in to handle the growing need for multimedia and video applications. With a modular cabling system such as the R&Mfreenet platform from R&M, users could efficiently implement this structured installation. At the same time, the modular approach is expected to offer flexibility for later expansions or for short-term adjustments and changes in user requirements for special events.

Users are also provided the option to subsequently upgrade a distributor or change from copper to fiber-optic cabling at any time on the modular R&M platform. Quick-installation solutions requiring no special tools, happen to be a big boon to electricians.

Read on to know the technical recommendations and requirements proposed by FIFA to implement this technology successfully across the globe, in the next page...


As per the technical recommendations and requirements of the FIFA: the sharp rise in the wide and reliable use of open-architecture communication systems requires early planning of the core infrastructure. This should be done at the same time as the architectural construction program is drawn up.

Most electronic building systems are moving towards a joint and open data protocol known as Internet Protocol (IP). IP is normally used as an Ethernet-based connection network to interlink systems and networks. This approach is already the standard technology for many building systems and covers phone, administrative data, wireless data (Wi-Fi), building management systems, electronic access control and intrusion detection, video monitoring, TV and other electrical low-voltage current systems.

The electronic building systems would continue to develop using IP, which makes the planning of these systems all the more important. Given this increased system convergence and integration, it is essential to plan for the present and future. That is the only way to ensure a long service life for the systems. These criteria must be developed based on existing standards in the communications industry. They help in predicting future technologies.

The development of a technology program assists in identifying all systems, terminals and applications needed for the stadium. The technology program indicates their interoperability, convergence and network allocation. It is used in project planning to determine who is responsible for what work and for system implementation. It is usual for the stadium owner or operator to offer, allocate and maintain a standard cabling system for the entire stadium.

The following points are said to be critical for the technology program:

  • Implemented systems and applications
  • Extent of system convergence with IP
  • Support of systems, terminals and applications
  • Allocation of services
  • System reliability and redundancy
  • Prevention of loss
  • Non-interruptible operation of applications and connection network
  • Future potential for expansion and growth

The communication cable infrastructure system has to be planned in such a way that it supports voice and data applications and systems operated over a multimedia cable system with optical fibers and twisted-pair copper conductors.

Vinod Yalburgi

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