Internet During the Olympics: Heading for Last or Gold?


Can you believe we’re literally hours away from the opening ceremony for the London Olympics? This means in the coming weeks we’ll see athletes from around the world display their routines, skills, and teamwork they’ve been working hard on over the last four years. While much of the focus is on which athletes will win gold medals at the Games, there’s a whole different “team” of people that will have their skills put to the test as well – Team IT.

Millions of tickets have already been sold for the Games. On top of that, there will be thousands upon thousands of world news and sports media in attendance. Combined, that equals a massive amount of smartphones, tablets and laptops churning out tweets and posting pictures, over and above the massive data volumes already generated daily by citizens of the U.K. Herein lies the question:

Can London’s infrastructure handle this data surge, or will consumers find themselves shut out of the action?

Initial reports looked grim, with analysts predicting the country’s broadband infrastructure would fail during the Olympics because of the expected traffic. In fact, an official warning came out from the government with the release of the Cabinet Office’s Preparing Your Business for the Games report. The document read, “It is possible that internet services may be slower during the Games or, in very severe cases, there may be dropouts due to an increased number of people accessing the internet.” Additionally, according to this article in The Guardian  from February, internet service providers may introduce data caps during peak times to try to spread the loading and give a more equal service to their entire customer base.

In the interim between the release of that document and now, a lot of work has been done to make sure a situation like the one described above doesn’t happen. According to this July article in Broadband Expert, a Cabinet spokesperson has clarified the status of the broadband connections, saying, “The situation has moved on considerably since the advice for businesses was published. We do not now believe there is likely to be any impact on the UK internet infrastructure during the Olympic Games.”

While the outlook has definitely changed for the positive, there’s no doubt that the possibility of a breakdown is still there. For businesses located in London, in addition to companies who do business there, and whose cash flow relies heavily on Internet transactions, I hope they have fully prepared by doing things like testing their systems, talking to their service providers and putting a strategy in place. If not, you never know, you could be looking at a three week summer vacation.

Check out the sampling of stories below for more information on the subject.

From Computer Technology Review (and Stratus): The London Olympics: An Exercise in Avoiding IT Overload

1.8 million. That’s the number of people who have already purchased tickets to see the 10,000-plus athletes compete in this year’s summer Olympics in London. For those lucky ones, the Games represent a summer vacation, but for those who have a business or do business there, and whose cash flow relies heavily on Internet transactions, the feeling may not be the same. For them, the Olympics represents an abundance of smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices churning out tweets, Facebook posts, pictures and videos, over and above the massive data volumes already generated daily by citizens of the U.K. Now double it. And then triple it.

From Advanced Television: 20% Will Watch Olympics Online 

Increasingly tech-savvy consumers are set to place significant demands on London’s IT infrastructure this summer. The biggest priorities for those streaming online content are maintaining consistent connectivity (21 per cent), quality of sound/picture (19 per cent) and speed of connection (15 per cent). London’s data centres will play a key role in ensuring consumer appetite for media coverage this summer will be satisfied. Many digital media organisations are benefiting from the digital communities housed in colocation data centres in the capital. By choosing to be part of one of these communities with immediate access to satellite, Internet exchanges and key Content Delivery Networks, digital media organisations can ensure that their content flows smoothly over the network to the end user.

From International Business Times: Live Streaming Olympic Games Will Cause UK Internet to Grind to a Halt 

While many London businesses are planning alternative transport and working hours to not be affected by the games, Chris King of Palo Alto Networks says “it is a different type of traffic that can’t be ignored and could potentially cause headaches for many companies. “Workers now take video streaming for granted, and while most of the time streaming media online isn’t an issue, a concentration of demand around a major event such as the Olympics can lead to a huge spike in bandwidth consumption.”

From U Switch: Olympics will not cause broadband outages, says government 

The demands placed on broadband networks by the London 2012 Olympic Games are unlikely to cause service outages, it has been claimed. In a statement to the BBC, the Cabinet Office reversed a warning about the likelihood of infrastructure failings during the upcoming sporting festivities. Back in February, the department claimed that services may be slower during the Games “or in very severe cases there may be drop outs.” However, the Cabinet Office said the situation “has moved on considerably since the advice for businesses was published.”

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