Telstra readies fiber network for 2000 Olympics

Telstra readies fiber network for 2000 Olympics

By ROBERT PEASE

Telstra Corp. Ltd., a Melbourne, Australia-based carrier, is building a communications network that will bring the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games to more than four billion people around the world.

Telstra`s Millennium Network, which has been in development for more than nine years, began as an initiative to integrate new technology in Telstra`s growing national network, which consists of more than 1.5 million km of fiber-optic cable. Since Sydney earned the right to host the 2000 Olympic Games, the focus has shifted to using the network to provide voice, video, and data transmissions during the event. The complete telecommunications package meshes terrestrial and submarine fiber-optic cable networks with satellite broadcasting technology.

Synchronous Digital Hierarchy technology will be the basis of communications using optical fiber rings within the Homebush Bay complex where the International Broadcast Center (IBC) will be located. Approximately 4500 km of fiber-optic cable will be deployed between Olympic venues and the IBC--more than five times the distance between Sydney and Melbourne.

The overall project also calls for 30,000 new telephone lines, capability to handle more than 300,000 mobile phones, and 280 video links. About 120 international video links are expected to leave Australia via fiber-optic submarine cables. Satellite systems will serve as a backup for the international feeds.

In addition, the support hardware required will fill 70,000 sq ft, and broadcast images will be controlled from a single room housing 400 monitors. The Millennium Network will incorporate numerous earth stations, at least 10 satellites, up to 60 private cable-TV channels, and thousands of audio circuits. The system will require more audio than video circuits because the feeds are supplied to countries with many different languages.

Resources across Australia will be used for the Millennium Network. Signals from Olympic soccer events in Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, and Brisbane will be transmitted across the Telstra network to the IBC and media press center. Audio and video signals bound for Europe will cross the Nullabor Plain and northern Australia on Telstra`s fiber-optic cable to an earth station in Perth, where they will be sent to a satellite above the Indian Ocean for transmission to Europe and Asia. Signals bound for North America will be transmitted from Sydney across the Pacific Ocean.

"There are more submarine cables coming online before Year 2000, whereby 10-Gbit/sec capacity will be available," says John Hunter, general manager of Telstra`s Olympic Unit. "The use of submarine cable for video and audio, as well as telephony and data, is now possible--and more desirable--as optical-cable transmission imposes less delay and greater reliability than satellite transmission."

Telstra will be the sole carrier responsible for supplying all telecommunications for the 2000 Games and will employ more than 1000 technical staff for the network`s operation. Hunter says plans for using the Millennium Network for the herculean task began in the early 1990s when the bid was first made. In a recent report, he said many lessons were learned from other major events he participated in, including the Barcelona Olympic Games in Spain, the Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan, and, particularly, the Atlanta Olympic Games in the United States.

"It was learned first-hand at Atlanta that it was necessary to start very early, not only in building the venues, but also in planning communications," says Hunter. "Also, because of difficulties experienced by customers in Atlanta, it was clear that such major events should not have more than one authority responsible for end-to-end communications."

The benefits of Telstra`s Millennium Network will be enjoyed long after the Olympic flame is extinguished in Sydney. One of the company`s primary philosophies in building the network was based on re-use after the Games.

"After the Games, the Telstra hardware will be integrated into our network around Australia," says Brian Pilbeam, Telstra`s Sydney 2000 Olympic Unit national general manager. "Exchanges are being upgraded, and the new infrastructure will put us at the forefront of world communications. The availability of broadband infrastructure will encourage the introduction of leading-edge products and services into Sydney and Australia. It will also serve to lure multinational companies to establish their regional headquarters here."

The 2000 Olympics aren`t the first games to be held on Australian soil. According to Pilbeam, Telstra provided telephones and communications services for the Melbourne Games in 1956, enabling the games to be broadcast into people`s homes on television for only the second time in history.

"Now, 42 years later, we are well underway with the development of a world-class communications network for Sydney 2000," says Pilbeam. q

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