With just one month to go befoer the World Cup kick-off, Soccer City stadium has successfully completed the final installation phase of a R39-million integrated multi-cast TV, audio visual and digital signage system, said to be the first of its kind in South Africa.
Soccer City has capacity for 95 000 spectators and boasts 99 VIP suites as well as a number of exclusive restaurants. Significantly, more than 700-million people around the globe are expected to watch the World Cup final live on TV.
With two giant, high resolution 86 square metre LED (light emitting diode) video screens in the main arena and another 700 screens located in key areas in and around the stadium – including VIP and players lounges, hospitality suites, change rooms, public restaurants and kiosks and walkways – the fully integrated AV system is able to combine satellite TV feeds, with in-stadium IP (Internet Protocol) digital TV camera signals and streaming customised signage.
Each screen can be configured independently with live feeds, general information and commercial advertising content, via a control centre located at the heart of the computerised system. Crucially, multiple broadcast mixes – including emergency messages – can be streamed to any display screen on demand.
The system was designed by Martin May, Enterasys Networks regional director (Africa). It uses a locally-engineered two-tier Enterasys infrastructure as its basis.
“The network is one of the most critical elements of the multi-cast TV system,” says May. “The IPTV network will be responsible for the broadcast of live, real-time pictures around the stadium and, via the official broadcaster, into the homes of many millions of people world-wide and in South Africa who will be watching the opening ceremony, initial games and the final on TV."
Systems Solutions – part of the Gearhouse SA Group – was tasked with implementing the high definition video control system, digital signage and IPTV signal distribution systems. The company’s UK-based project manager, Sally Penny, says they will put the stadium at the cutting edge of modern technology.
“We approached three network vendors to supply the underlying network – HP, Cisco and Enterasys Networks – with Enterasys coming out on top,” she says. “The proposed Enterasys solution was the most viable, cost-effective and flexible of the three. The switches supplied are capable of being upgraded in future as new developments come on stream, or changed to accommodate design modifications post-2010.
From a technical perspective, the network features an Enterasys N7 enterprise network switch at its core, with a number of Enterasys Platinum DFE (Distributed Forwarding Engines) modules in distribution roles linked to 40 Enterasys C- and DSeries switches via fibre optic cabling at the edge of the network.
According to Simon Read, an Enterasys Networks design engineer, a key feature of the network is its distributed, fault-tolerant, multi-casting architecture with scalable capacity.
“Each DFE is an integrated switching, routing and management module that makes forwarding decisions, enforces security policies and classifies incoming traffic. This distributed architecture has proven itself in some of the largest and most complex networks in the world, which is why it has been chosen for arguably the most high profile application in South Africa at present,” he says.