Will A London Olympics Data Torrent Flood The Internet?

April 12, 2012
Will A London Olympics Data Torrent Flood The Internet?

Winning an Olympic gold medal typically requires some combination of speed, endurance, and correct technique. As the London Olympics—already being dubbed the “digital games”—approaches, questions swirl about London having the same performance attributes when it comes to Internet services during the games. Internet service providers are warning that the event will place enormous stress on London’s Internet network.

The worries aren’t solely about the amount of communication traffic created by visitors to the Games. There’s also concern about how this will affect businesses that rely on fast and consistent broadband services. In that vein, many companies have informed employees that company broadband cannot be used to watch the games via streamed content during work time.

Television networks plan to provide live streamed content during the London Olympics, contributing heavily to a potential Internet overload. For instance, the BBC will provide live coverage from up to 24 locations. It predicts that content streamed to smartphones and computers could generate 1 trillion bits/s of traffic during peak usage.

Internet overload could exacerbate even further by the fact that London expects 1.5 million visitors during the Games.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has issued notices to companies to expect an infrastructure overload during the London Olympics, warning of a “massive hit on the infrastructure.” Olympic organisers also warn London-based companies to prepare for slow service during the Games, and in some instances, a complete breakdown of service. Rumours that some Internet service providers plan to set limits on Internet usage to avoid a complete network crash are apparently unfounded.

What about mobile-phone companies? Several have said they will struggle to keep up with mobile data demand. The problem is that excessive communication demand won’t be a one-day issue like other large sporting events, but will span a period of 17 days that the Games cover.

To help ease the burden, additional phone masts are being installed in and around the Olympic site, and in other open spaces around London.

So will the Games ultimately block London’s broadband? My guess is it will cause problems; many businesses are currently considering introducing some unusual working times to maximise low usage periods, particularly at night. The bottom line: Don’t expect any medal-winning broadband speeds from late July to mid-August.

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