Case Studies

Data Networking – Exhibitions and Venues – NEC Group

Data Networking solutions for the Venues & Exhibitions sector from Freedom Communications, enabling implementation of the business strategy the NEC needed.


The Customer

Exhibition Icon

Offering unrivaled flexibility across more than 190,000 square metres of covered exhibition space through 20 interconnecting halls, The NEC welcomes 2.1 million visitors to a diverse range of more than 140 trade and consumer exhibitions every year.


  • The NEC (also known as The National Exhibition Centre)
  • The ICC (also known as The International Convention Centre)
  • The NIA (also known as the National Indoor Arena)


The management team recognised that the NEC needs to compete against newer international venues and needed to evolve and so, following the completion of a £40m investment programme designed to bring the venue up to date, the next step was to broaden The NEC’s product offering to the corporate market, capitalising on The NEC’s unrivaled activity programme of trade-based exhibitions.


The Challenge

Network Icon

The NEC had two separate network components that underpinned and supported both corporate and exhibition communication needs. However, the legacy network technology and inefficient design did not enable the business strategy that The NEC needed to implement.


  • Equipment used in the network that provided connectivity for exhibitors in the halls during trade shows had reached end of life. Similarly, major elements of the corporate network were unsupported with lack of spares becoming a critical issue.
  • Not only were the two major networks managed by different teams, the implementation had become inefficient with some 1700 separate VLANS terminating on their Firewall Cluster. The Firewall Cluster could not be upgraded due to resident, bespoke software.
  • Although the Firewall provided security, it was also being used to allocate dedicated bandwidth to exhibitors resulting in inefficiently high ‘traffic tariffs’ that were costly to run.
  • The analogue CCTV system could not take advantage of latest video security technologies and managing traffic flows to best use the parking resources was a manual process, as was paying for car parking.
  • Finally, the legacy systems weren’t WEEE compliant, which meant that The NEC’s management team could not meet their Green targets.


The Solution

Through a phased project, Freedom designed and implemented a number of innovative solutions that use a common core platform and a single LAN environment, underpinned by an ‘any service at any place’ concept.

NEC were provided with a technology enabling 10Gbps ‘resilient ring’ backbone network, which supports three functional areas as VLANs: Exhibitions, Corporate and Hybrid.

  • Freedom have reduced the number of VLANs by 94% to a manageable 100 and have assigned the bandwidth allocation task to the switches, allowing the Firewall to concentrate on what it is designed for; prevention of DOS attacks and other Unified Threat Management functions.
  • New edge switches that have been deployed in the exhibition halls are now delivering future-proofed Gigabit Ethernet to exhibition stands, providing exhibitors with high speed internet access as well as access to their corporate VPNs and secure credit card payment services.


Wireless Router Icon  Firewall Icon  Video Camera Icon  Parking Sign  Parking Arrow Icon

The 10Gbps core is very much an enabling platform that provides the basis of solutions for other problematic areas.

  • The old analogue CCTV cameras have been replaced with pinsharp digital HD cameras both internally and externally.
  • Externally, these wireless cameras can take advantage of the latest video technology and support ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) that has a security element but which is also used to automatically register visitors that have prepaid for parking.
  • As part of a Vehicle Management System, ‘Loop counters’ have been deployed which are also wirelessly connected back to the network core so that car park lot management is automatic and when a given parking lot is full, traffic can automatically be signposted to park elsewhere.


Finally, all of this is managed by a newly created Venue Operations Centre that provides centralised management and support services for the entire venue.


The Benefits

CEO Icon

The CEO has been able to support the strategy for The NEC’s Destination NEC project, which is to become recognised as the venue where people come to discover the future. The NEC’s £40 million Venue Improvement Program showcases a brand new look and feel but goes much deeper with a 21st Century enabling infrastructure.


Stock Exchange IconThe Financial team has seen cost and efficiency savings with the removal of network bottlenecks and manual operations. The new infrastructure provides a platform on which new revenue generating services are being added.



IT TeamThe Technical and IT team have delivered a leading edge network that supports the business strategy and solves operational issues. They have safe guarded the future of the communications infrastructure of The NEC and created a service enabling platform for future revenue generation.


End User IconThe End Users and show delegates enjoy the benefits of high speed WAN access, whether to the internet or corporate VPNS and event delegates experience a better service from exhibitors, where that’s a demonstration of cloud-based applications or simple credit card payments for product purchases.



“Working with Freedom has been a delight. We have simultaneously future-proofed our network architecture and resolved some technical issues which were holding back our business. We look forward to working with Freedom for a future implementation of new services”.

Steve Harrison, Head of Service Delivery

NEC Group