The New Meadowlands sports complex has once again proven that a gigantic stadium also requires a gigantic IP network.
In less than two-weeks, when the New York Giants inaugurate the New Meadowlands stadium with its first regular-season game, fans will have the benefit of using a massive IP network that will be responsible for HD video displays, processing credit card transactions and delivering Wi-Fi connectivity to fans’ wireless devices.
How big is this network, you ask? Let’s start with the 60 telecom closets dispersed throughout the stadium that provide connectivity to the roughly 10,000 IP ports in the complex. Each closet is an estimated 200 square feet in size and contains a Cisco Catalyst 6500 switch, a Catalyst 3750 switch, a cellular antenna system for wireless connectivity and an uninterruptable power supply system to protect the infrastructure from power surges. Each closet receives a 40Gbps Ethernet connection from a telecom base system that acts as the center of the massive IP network.
Branching out a bit, the telecom closets are used to provide Web connectivity to the stadium’s 2,200 HD video displays that provide customized content for users depending on where they are in the stadium. For example, different displays will provide advertisements for different shops that are closest to where fans are standing. They can also provide customized information for the nearest exits from different areas as well as menus for different restaurants in the area.
The IP network similarly provides Wi-Fi connectivity for any Wi-Fi-capable device in the stadium, allowing fans to access similar promotional content and stadium information on their smartphones. All of this content will be managed through StadiumVision, Cisco’s content distribution system designed specifically for major entertainment venues.
“Each display can have customized content pushed to it, not just in terms of media content but also different types of information for each area,” explains Ron Ricci, Cisco Systems‘ (NASDAQ: CSCO) vice-president for corporate positioning. “The Internet is the most efficient and effective content distribution system on the planet.”
Even more intriguing is what Cisco and Verizon have set up in the stadium’s high-priced luxury suites. Among other things, the suites are equipped with touchscreen Cisco IP phones that act as remote controls for HD displays and also have apps that let fans order food and merchandise that will be delivered directly to their seats in the suites. The phones will also come equipped with an ever-expanding array of applications that can provide them with additional entertainment or information during the game.
“If a fan is a fantasy football player, we would develop applications where you could have their fantasy stats for the day pop up in real-time as games are played,” says Peter Brickman, the CTO of New Meadowlands. “You can even start initiating little competitions for games like with other people in the suites.”
Brickman says having every function within the stadium go through the same IP network has provided a strong cost advantage to the stadium as it doesn’t have to maintain multiple networks that cover entertainment, video and the Internet. This is in contrast to the old Giants Stadium, where he says that “we had separate networks for everything and a lot of control rooms that weren’t IP-controlled.”
He says in addition to its massive size, setting up the network was particularly challenging because it had to be done while the stadium was still under construction. So instead of coming into a finished building and installing equipment, technicians had to wade through sawdust and construction workers to install the entire network without even having the benefit of air conditioning. In the end, though, Brickman says all the work and toil that went into installing the network will be worthwhile as it will give fans a more integrated game experience.