Bigger, better networks

Candice Jones
By Candice Jones, ITWeb online telecoms editor
Johannesburg, 11 Jun 2010

Tens of thousands of soccer fans will today converge on Joburg's iconic stadium, Soccer City, as SA kicks off the first match of the Fifa Soccer World Cup 2010 against Mexico.

The stadium has been one of the focus areas for all the telecoms providers in SA and considerable investments have been ploughed into it to ensure all fans stay connected during the matches.

It is from this investment that the operators say their legacy will stem, when the tourists and fans start heading back to normal life next month. Some will give SA's youth a chance of a lifetime.

More capacity

Africa's first global sponsor of the World Cup, MTN, has put almost R500 million into its network capacity and development for the games, which it will redeploy into its regular network when the matches are over.

Soccer City alone now houses around 22 base stations, with 38 cells or point-of-radio contacts, and will be fed by 6km of fibre.

In addition, the stadium will have 348 antennae, sending and receiving cellphone calls for the duration of the matches. MTN has also hired a team of engineers that will be present at the stadium to monitor the network during each match.

According to MTN, other stadiums will have similar capacities, preparing for what it expected to be a rush of calls and data transfers during the games.

Better mobile Internet

While Vodacom says much of the work the company has put into its network would have been carried out anyway, it says certain areas of investment were planned specifically for the World Cup.

“A great example is at the Soccer City stadium, where we installed the equivalent of 16 2G and 10 3G base stations, to provide enough capacity for 94 000 spectators,” the company explains.

In total, dedicated World Cup investments for Vodacom include the installation of 112 2G and 81 3G base stations. “Much of our investment was directed toward increasing transmission capacity and this would have happened at some point regardless of the tournament,” the company says.

Flying high

Both MTN and Vodacom have also put effort into upgrading services at the airport.

All of these investments will see SA's internal capacity seriously boosted, with most of the technologies being redeployed into the regular networks for everyday use. The increased fibre investments by both companies will also see better quality services for all South African mobile subscribers.

“The key issue was timing. The construction of 11 metro fibre rings, which was completed this year, was scheduled specifically to be ready for the influx of visitors, but this will continue to provide us with lower cost, higher quality and higher capacity transmission long after the fans have gone home,” explains Vodacom.

Future generations

Cell C has made similar upgrades to its networks in the areas around SA's new stadiums and the airport. However, Cell C's actual legacy will be far more impactful to the youth of SA.

SA's third mobile operator bought hospitality packages to 36 matches to be played over the next month. The packages were initially intended to go to VIP stakeholders in the business; however, Cell C's new CEO, Lars Reichelt, surprised the company by saying not one ticket should go to those people who can afford them.

Reichelt decided the 800 tickets will be given to underprivileged children, who would otherwise not have a chance to be part of the games.

Cell C will take children from 28 schools, four children's shelters and four community soccer teams to see their heroes on the pitch. Reichelt designed the soccer shirts the children will wear at the matches.

The company says a memory of a lifetime is the legacy it wants to leave behind when tourists start heading home.

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