Will mobile technology hold up under Olympic strain?

U.K. telecoms operators say that they will be able to cope with additional service demands of the London Games, with extra mobile infrastructure being installed around the Olympic Park.

With hundreds of thousands of spectators, staff, and athletes expected in the densely populated city of London during the Olympics, questions have been raised over how well the Big Smoke is going to cope.

Additional security scrutiny, restricted access to roads, added congestion and more traffic resulting from the Games are all being felt by London's locals. But will the U.K.'s mobile and broadband networks be affected too?

Telecoms companies have told the BBC they believe the networks should be able to hold up under the extra strain during the Olympics.

To try to cope with the surge in 2G and 3G demand in and around the Olympic Park -- an area expected to hold up to 300,000 people at any one time -- 30 mobile phone masts have been installed across the 2,000 square meter site, 14 of which are reserved for inside stadium use.

Stuart Newstead, chair of the the body representing U.K. mobile operators and content providers, described preparations for the Olympics as being similar to "dealing with four simultaneous FA Cup Finals over a 17-day period." He told the BBC:

At peak time when one set of spectators leaves and another arrives you will have between 200,000 to 300,000 people on site. It's as well prepared as it can be. The key to the planning has been co-operation between the operators to maximise the laws of physics, allowing a far denser configuration of masts and antennas than normal to ensure as much capacity as possible.

Organizers say that it will be possible to make calls, send texts and go online through their mobile devices even at peak times, according to the BBC. However, in order to accommodate such data demands, telecommunications company BT has installed a number of additional WiFi hot spots, with BT broadband, O2 mobile and Tesco Mobile subscribers offered free access in an attempt to lower rates of 3G usage.

Customers of other networks can buy coupons to access the hot spots, while overseas visitors can sign up for 500 minutes at a rate of 28 pounds ($43).

Mifi devices, however, have been barred from the site; and spectators are not allowed to use their mobile devices in order to create personal Wi-Fi hotspots.

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About the author

    Charlie Osborne writes for ZDNet, SmartPlanet, and CNET. She is based in London and is a freelance journalist, designer, and photographer.

     

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