With an estimated one billion smart devices and seven million inbound roamers, the London 2012 Olympics was the biggest test in the history of mobile operators as it centered on the most subscribed-to, intensely connected mobile communication ecosystem ever to wrap itself round one single event. Mobile operators were challenged and also provided with the best opportunity they have ever had to learn how to assure the connected experience for subscribers – not only those at the games, but the millions of others who expected life and business to carry on as usual.
The eyes of most of the world were on these Olympics, and many of them right in London on the screens of their smart devices, watching the latest event. Take also into consideration the massive amount of connections at any given time across different countries all around the globe as fans shared pictures, video, texted and called each other to discuss the latest event. It was estimated that more than four billion viewers worldwide would tune in, both in London and around the globe, just via Twitter (News - Alert), Facebook and other popular social networks. To offload some of the heavy traffic, it was projected that a total of 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots were positioned in and around Olympic Park to ensure data speeds remained high and voice connections did not drop.
With regard to roaming in London, tourists from the United States, Japan and South Korea, for instance, were accustomed to using 4G services on their smartphones or tablets, while European visitors expected the same level of connectivity they were used to at home. Once they switched on their phones after they set foot in the U.K., each set of tourists had different expectations of their mobile service providers in terms of voice, data and SMS. Tourists from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific turned to Skype (News - Alert) calls to avoid international tariffs and steep roaming charges.
It was also true that some of the eyes of the rest of the world were not on the Olympics. Simply because millions of people were creating mobile voice and data demand of mythic proportions over in one part of London, non-Olympians saw no reason why service should not be normal for them. There were still communication, business, data and service needs, and it was equally critical for operators to ensure these subscribers’ experience expectations were being met.
Regardless of the location of subscribers and whether they were tuned into the Olympics or going about business as usual, the key for mobile operators was to project where and why the quality problems will occur and then be able to quickly address them as they did occur. Beyond just the day-to-day heavy usage of subscribers around the Olympics, the spikes in usage were an exceptional challenge to operators. Subscribers wanted to communicate at exactly the same moment due to a final event, and operators were pushed to assure the connected experience during a tsunami of data demand.
The Olympics was a learning curve for many as they had to identify the factors that led to degradation in the quality of service experienced by the end user. This event was the best live case study the industry has ever had in terms of preparing itself for an increasingly demanding connected future. This was a massive event, but it will not be the last one and, as subscribers continue to purchase more smart devices and expect even higher quality levels of experience, operators need to evaluate lessons learned in order to assure the connected experience for the long haul.
Edited by Brooke Neuman