Skip to main content

Olympics 2012: Bandwidth Matters

When the Olympics rolls into town come July, there are going to be plenty of records broken. Not all of them on the physical plane either, but in the virtual realm where UK internet traffic records are likely to be smashed.

Certainly in London, where there'll be an influx of fans and spectators watching, tweeting, uploading videos and so forth. Given this, the bandwidth used by Games officials and organisers, plus 20,000 media representatives, and we're talking a big strain being placed on wireless and wired broadband infrastructure.

Ofcom, which has been conducting tests during previous major events such as the royal wedding last year, anticipates wireless traffic levels doubling during the Olympics. BT expects London's network to feel the strain of one billion smart devices hooking up to wi-fi or 3G throughout the games. Then, of course, there's online broadcasting, app traffic and so forth, all of which combines into something of a massive bandwidth challenge.

Daniel Joseph Barry, VP of marketing at data control specialist Napatech, commented: "Networks [traditionally] cater more for downloading, but trends show that people are now actually uploading data at live events, rather than downloading, so networks will need to adapt to these one-off situations."

"But to cater for the expected increase in traffic at Olympic events, carriers can increase capacity at mobile cells close to venues, installing additional Wi-Fi hot zones access points and by using cells on wheels."

Indeed, Ofcom has plans in place to borrow spectrum for the Games from various organisations, including the Home Office, Ministry of Defence and Civil Aviation Authority. It's definitely a case of all bandwidth hands on deck.

The Internet Service Providers' Association has acknowledged that some ISPs may well put traffic management policies into action during the Olympics.

Businesses also need to be prepared for the strain employees watching events may put on their network.

Ian Rhodes, platform director at InTechnology, commented: "London 2012 is expected to draw a global audience of over 4 billion people. In the UK, research suggests that more than a quarter (28 per cent) of people plan to keep up with events online - via their laptop, tablet or smartphone."

"Businesses must open their eyes to this as the huge demand for online services is likely to cause a significant headache for IT departments up and down the country. And it's not just businesses. ISPs should also be making provision now to factor in the upsurge in demand we're likely to see over the course of the Olympics and Paralympics."

The official advice for businesses on the London Olympics site is to devise a clear staff policy for watching the Games, and to position TVs around the office as viewing points, rather than having everyone watching on their individual computers.

Source: E&T (opens in new tab)

Darren Allan

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.