IT and The Olympics
July 27th, 2012
Patrick Thibodeau reported for Computerworld that IT managers in businesses and governments are taking steps to ensure that the Summer Olympics do not bust networks or budgets. The opportunity for problems is there.
The Olympics will be live streamed, and London’s time difference means that many events will occur during the workday.
Employers say, minimally, they’ll be monitoring networks and will be prepared to cut off streaming access if they must. Some IT managers are reminding staff about network corporate policies.
Another problem is the potential for out-of-control mobile costs. Many employers support far more streaming-capable devices today than they did for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The iPhone was just a year old when the Beijing games began. The iPad and Android smartphones had yet to arrive. All these devices encourage streaming with the help of apps. The carriers have responded to this with data caps.
For employers that supply mobile equipment and pay carrier bills directly, there’s the risk that streaming employees could exceed usage limits and drive up mobile budgets. But bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies have also introduced another model, where employers offer reimbursement up to a certain point or stipends.
One company that has insight into mobile bills across its customer base is Tangoe, a telecom expense management firm. Tangoe sees potential problems for companies that pay the bills directly, especially with the carrier data caps.
Daniel Rudich, the senior vice president in charge of real time expense management at Tangoe, said the Olympics could have a 5% to 10% impact on their overall mobile budgets if users aren’t prepared for it.
Big problems can come from individual employees traveling overseas, Rudich said. One Tangoe client had an employee who racked up more than $30,000 in charges thanks to a Final Four app that continuously updated scores. Another employee cost a company $175,000 in roaming charges on an air card after downloading the entire first season of the TV show Seinfeld in a country that lacked English language TV.
In terms of networks, seven IT managers were contacted and all said they will be monitoring networks for streaming usage, and will prepare to take action if needed. Many already have in place what they need to control usage.
Meanwhile, across the pond, BBC News is reporting that The Olympics have been putting mobile communications technology to the test. Telecoms firms say their networks will cope with the strain of the hundreds of thousands of spectators, workers and athletes using mobile devices across London’s Olympic Park in East London.
Thirty mobile phone masts have been fitted across the 500 acre site, 14 of them for inside stadiums and other buildings. In addition, telecommunications company BT says it has created the UK’s largest single wi-fi installation.
Content providers have also taken steps to limit data usage. The nine venues on site can hold more than 160,000 spectators at any one time. Twenty thousand members of the media are expected, and the Olympic village houses about 17,500 athletes and officials. They will be joined by thousands more workers and security staff.
The chair of the the body representing UK mobile operators and content providers said that, “At peak time when one set of spectators leaves and another arrives you will have between 200,000 to 300,000 people on site,” Stuart Newstead told the BBC.
“It’s as well prepared as it can be. The key to the planning has been co-operation between the operators to maximize 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 means that everyone should be able to make calls, send texts, browse the internet and upload material to social networks even at the busiest times.
To relieve strain on 3G data services BT has installed about 1,000 wi-fi hotspots, free for some phone company subscribers. BT says it expects to be able to handle peak traffic of 1.7 gigabits per second: the equivalent of 13,200 webpage downloads every minute.
“The technology we have put in place is built specifically for events with a high density of spectators,” said a BT spokeswoman.
Content providers whose material is likely to be popular with attendees have been asked to strike a balance between the kind of material they want to offer and its impact on data usage.
Mobile phone and computer users are not the only ones using the wireless spectrum.
Communications regulator Ofcom has licensed about 20,000 frequencies to allow:
- Broadcasters to use wireless cameras, microphones and talkback systems
- Olympic organizers to use wireless timing and scoring equipment
- Olympic officials, team members, support staff and emergency services to have reliable communication systems.
To secure capacity it borrowed spectrum from the Ministry of Defence and has used frequencies freed up by the switch-off of analogue TV signals.
It says it will also have between 30 and 40 staff on site at any one time to check users do not suffer interference from either each others’ equipment or deliberate jamming by malicious parties.
It also has spare frequencies that it can hand out to mitigate any problems.
Source: BBC News