Olympics Wireless Network Gets Overloaded on Day 1: Organizers Ask Fans Not to Tweet

Well, despite lots of planning and press releases, it turns out that the folks behind the wireless networks at the London Olympics weren’t prepared for the smartphone revolution. According to a Reuters story today, fans effectively shut down TV coverage from the men’s cycling road race by overwhelming the wireless network with their communications, leading the games organizers to ask fans not to tweet so much.

(As Gizmodo says, good luck with that.)

Of course we here at Mobile Sports Report have been covering the whole Wi-Fi at events topic pretty closely, but from here it looks like we’re about to get a new failure data point, for what happens when big-event organizers underestimate the connectivity needs of the crowd. (Stay tuned this week for an in-depth report on the subject.)

According to the Reuters story, the men’s cycling road race Saturday didn’t get key broadcast information during the race because the hundreds of thousands of fans lining the course apparently gummed up the wireless network. Sunday, the games asked folks to back off on Twitter use:

An International Olympic Committee spokesman said the network problem had been caused by the messages sent by the hundreds of thousands of fans who lined the streets to cheer on the British team.

“Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say ‘Don’t, you can’t do it’, and we would certainly never prevent people,” he said. “It’s just – if it’s not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy.”

We are trying to get a response from networking gear vendor Cisco, which made much about its involvement with service provider BT, formerly known as British Telecom, the main service provider in and around London. While Cisco touted its networking chops before the games, like Michael Phelps the network’s performance so far is something short of gold.

Anyone over there in London have any downtime experiences? Let us know in the comments. More on this as we hear from Cisco.

Comments

  1. Peter Provart says:

    The Reuters report talks of the ‘Mobile’ network being jammed so that the GPS data from the Cyclists couldn’t get through. To me says that it is NOT the WI-Fi/Wireless network provided at the Games and is most likely the GSM/GPRS Data Services suffering a problem.

    ‘People Lining’ the streets of the Cycle Route would not be using the Games provided WIFI network (at specific venues) IMHO, and rather their Data Services from their mobile provider, so the use of mobile and wireless terms in this report is misleading.

    • From the press releases it sounded like operators were supposed to be adding public Wi-Fi to outdoor spaces as well, but from all reports so far it looks like there wasn’t any public Wi-Fi available for the cycling course. Which meant, as you said, that people used (and overloaded) the cell networks.

      But — why wouldn’t you at least put some outdoor Wi-Fi in place? What bigger crowds would there be than for cycling in London right now?

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  1. […] cell signal — courtesy of the huge amount of fans lining the road for the stage into London. Shades of the Olympic road race! Guess they still haven’t figured out how to handle cellular crowds in the UK […]

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