Senators to give arena an IP overhaul

The home of the Ottawa Senators is undergoing a major IT renovation to improve communications for the building, its residents and fans of the NHL team.

“We’re redoing all the phone and IT infrastructure in the building,” said Cyril Leeder, COO of the Sens and Scotiabank Place arena, where they play. “It’s almost (like) starting over.”

The arena’s PBX, which has been in place since the building opened a decade ago, will be updated to an IP-based system through partners Bell Canada and Nortel. Scotiabank Place will be equipped with Nortel Wireless LAN 2300, Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 Core switches and Ethernet Routing Switch 5520 Gigabit Power over Ethernet Edge switches to allow for a converged and scalable network.

The change is timely, said Leeder, since Scotiabank Place had used up all 500 phone lines that were available through the old PBX. The arena employs 200 full-time workers and there are other businesses, like the YMCA and Molson Canada, which also operate offices in the building. Each of the 150 suites in the arena requires its own phone and lines are also used for credit card authorizations.

“You get up to 500 in a real hurry. We needed (extra) capacity,” said Leeder. “It’s the same with data – we’re just about out of ability to add more data links for employees. (The upgrade) will make it quicker and we’ll add a lot of capacity in the building.”

Using an IP phone system, the arena will be able to support at least 1,000 phone lines. Data traffic inside the building will be improved, but fans on the outside should notice a difference too. The Sens host eight of their own Web sites and Leeder said slowdowns in site response times had become noticeable. With the upgrade, those slowdowns should be eliminated.

Fans will also benefit by being able to use more wireless applications during games such as text-messaging votes for players of the game or for voting in all-star ballots.

The upgrades are beginning right now, said Leeder – a Wi-Fi enabled press box has already been completed – and the changes will be noticeable by March 2007. The entire upgrade should be finished by June.

A similar upgrade was recently announced for the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The work was scheduled to be completed by the middle of this month.

Upgrades of this type are becoming commonplace, said Ian Angus, principal of Angus Telemanagement, often because traditional PBX is dying out. Businesses are moving to IP-based systems simply because that’s mainly what’s available these days. But there are advantages, said Angus.

Most businesses are able to run at least as well as they were before and may be easier to add lines or program phones using newer systems, he said. They could also save money on wiring, because their voice and data are on the same system.

In the future, Senators coaches and players on the ice may be able to take advantage of the networking facility by improving their own communications systems, but those changes may take some time, said Leeder.

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