With the possibility of posting photos, updates and videos all from one device, it’s not a surprise that at big events with hundreds of devices, the speed of data usage is a little slower than usual. At the Olympics, how are all of the millions of people going to use their smartphones at the same time, sending pictures and videos en masse, tweeting and texting, and not crash networks that are already top heavy with bandwidth usage?
iBwave is a developer of solutions to help wireless operators, system integrators and equipment manufacturers bring strong, reliable voice and data wireless communications indoors, profitably. Its role is providing the backbone software for the deployment of an in-building wireless network design. It has also provided the designs and solutions for major events like the Super Bowl and the Euro Cup.
“Eighty percent of all the usage of smartphones is actually indoors and 95 percent of all the tablet usage is indoors as well,” said Mario Bouchard, CEO of iBwave. “So really that’s the biggest issue — everyone has a phone, everyone is using data, and when you’re sitting inside a bowl like the Olympics or Super Bowl or any stadium, you need a lot of capacity. The wireless network needs a lot of capacity to handle all of that traffic.”
This year’s Olympics will be a digital event in every sense, making full use of PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles, to provide viewers with a number of viewing, sharing and other engaging options to enjoy the greatest show on earth. People worldwide will be able to watch live streams of the games, interact with apps developed just for the games, tune in to live results and day-by-day schedules, as well as posting and updating through social media.
“The biggest challenge for the Olympics and pretty much all the different event venues like the stadium is the amount of people,” said Bouchard. “You have between 80 and 100 thousand people all sitting, not moving, together in an open environment.”
In the last Winter Olympics held in Canada in 2010, social media was extensively leveraged for fan-athlete interaction, and we can expect the same (and more) this time around. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that the 2012 Games will be the most “tech-savvy Olympics ever” and has already launched The Olympic Athletes’ Hub that will showcase social media feeds of Olympic athletes by posting content directly from their Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert) accounts.
“They’re using their phones not really for voice anymore but for texting, for posting stuff on Facebook, for watching replay, for video and stuff like that, which is very very tough on wireless networks,” Bouchard continued
Real Wireless Ltd has been providing IBW networks to Wembley stadium, one of the key venues for the Olympics, before it even existed, so it has a lot of experience with the venue.
“There’s a big infrastructure in there from the beginning not only for the mobile carriers but also for the stadium security, for the broadcasters to make their wireless cameras work, for the police and the fire personnel and so on,” said Simon Saunders (News - Alert), Real Wireless Ltd. “Every year that we’ve been there we’ve had to make major upgrades because we’ve got new technologies, but particularly recently we’ve had to upgrade for the capacity. We’ve had to put in lots of antennas to split the stadium up.”
One of the main challenges will be to try and simulate what kind of coverage the stadium can expect.
“We have to try and test it, but you really can’t test things in stadiums under real conditions ‘cause when there’s a real event on, you don’t want to get it wrong,” Saunders continued. “You don’t want to be playing around with things, and when there isn’t a real event on you haven’t got 80,000 people stretching your network and doing the special things they will no doubt be doing in the Olympics.”
“For the Olympics, the procedures are really really tight,” said Saunders. “Every piece of radio equipment that comes in has to be tagged and pre-approved.”
There are special restrictions in place as well when entering the stadium. Phones will be allowed, of course, but phones set up with hot spots will not be permitted.
“We’re going to be into the first Olympics of the ‘smartphone era’ in a couple of days, and the expectations are much higher than they were back then,” said Saunders. “The mobile service is not only going to deliver good coverage, five bars on your phone, but is also going to really work for both downloading and uploading videos, keeping in touch with the game you’re seeing and with the events happening at the other places as well. The good thing is we’ve got a lot of experience with Wembley over the last five years, the challenge is that it’s constantly changing.”
Implementing an in-building wireless network will allow all mobile device users to have access to their data and stay tuned to the games.
“It’s a combination of the coverage and capacity needs,” said Saunders. “The basic principle is to get the antennas spread out, but close to the people that are actually going to be using the wireless system so that the phones and the antennas only have to transmit a relatively low powers and that also means you can split up the environment and you can reuse the radio spectrum that you have in place in the different sectors.”
Distributed antenna systems give more consistent and even coverage, and also deliver the high capacity that is needed. There will be a multitude of wireless access points, and the closer a user is to the antenna, the better and faster the signal.
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Edited by Rich Steeves