Olympics Could Tax London's Phone, Internet Networks
March 22, 2012

Olympics Could Tax London’s Phone, Internet Networks

While the athletes competing in the London Olympic Games this summer are likely to be performing at their very peak, the same might not ring true for the host city's Internet and mobile phone networks, according to various reports published on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to run from July 27 to August 12, are likely to place a strain on London's infrastructure thanks to the presence of an estimated 10,000 athletes, 20,000 members of the media, and nearly half a million spectators each day, experts have predicted.

According to Raphael Satter of the Associated Press (AP), "those responsible for London´s network of fiber optic cables, phone masts and Wi-Fi hotspots are bracing for a data deluge as the events get under way“¦ Experts say the network should be able to cope -- but they warned of sluggishness during peak times and said an unexpected surge could easily push the system over the edge."

James Blessing of Britain´s Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) told Satter that it is quite possible that the infrastructure will be the victim of "a massive hit," and said the amount of traffic would be comparable to "England playing in the World Cup final on Christmas day" each day for the duration of the 17-day sporting event.

Likewise, mobile service provider Vodaphone said that they are expecting what the AP reporter dubs "a data tsunami" during the 17-day long sporting event.

In addition to regular Internet surfing, texting, and social networking from participants and spectators, another source of strain on the city networks will be the BBC's coverage of the event, claims Nathan Ingraham of The Verge.

The British broadcaster is reportedly planning to stream every event from the Olympics live -- a move that they say could "generate 1TB of traffic per second during peak hours, the equivalent of 1,500 people downloading a full-length DVD quality movie every minute," Ingraham said.

"Down at Olympic Park, a Wi-Fi network with 1,800 access points is being built to keep the Olympic staff online, with an estimated 60GB of data moving across that network every second. And with an estimated crowd of 250,000 gathering every day at Olympic Park (including 80,000 in Olympic Stadium), getting mobile data service will likely be a challenge," he added.

In an interview with BBC News Technology Reporter Jane Wakefield, Blessing said that there had been some discussion of rationing data usage, but said that they will not require service providers to cap data transfer.

However, he did add that they "may use technology to manage the network at peak times to prevent access from stalling completely," and warned that businesses could struggle with their bandwidth if they allow employees to watch streaming video of the games while on the job.