The Olympics Data Traffic Spike

The spike that became a peak; the peak that became the norm; the norm that became a new standard of excellence

When the first runner crosses the finish line in the Men’s 100 metres Final at London 2012, the athlete will enter the history books. He’ll become famous on a planetary scale not just for his personal achievement but also for the record he’ll create at having been the most tweeted about, liked, photographed (on-a-mobile-device) and ‘Facebooked’ runner in the history of telecommunications. He will represent a spike in data usage on a scale that the mobile industry has never seen before. This is the view of Mr Lyn Cantor, president of Tektronix Communications, a telecoms software provider.

According to Cantor the Olympics will be an intensely focused, staggeringly excessive period of demand for mobile voice and data. According to the games organisers approximately 8.8 million tickets have been sold, which probably represents at least 8.8 million mobile device users. Every event at the Olympics will be a defining moment for mobile operators- can they cope with the spike in usage and still deliver a high quality of experience? Can they isolate where the degradation in quality will occur? Can they assure the connected experience precisely when the number of people wanting to communicate at exactly the same moment in time becomes a tsunami of data demand? Can they swim or will they sink?

Robust and reliable network coverage represents a technological achievement and it has to perform at its peak at all times, enduring any and every level of demand thrown at it, or through it. Mobile providers will be under enormous pressure to deliver consistent quality not just to the influx of millions of users who will make London the epicentre of a data demand eruption but also during the unforeseen spikes. The competitions and races are scheduled; operators know when the associated demand will hit. The problem comes from a tight gathering of data hungry users in a news-hungry environment. When the eyes of the world are watching, a drama usually unfolds. The erratic behaviour of an athlete, a quirky celebrity moment, a slip, a fall, a tear, a laugh and a joke; the million micro-events that make up human nature and now, in a connected world, satisfy human interest. These magical moments are when mobile operators are most likely to experience problems in delivering seamless user experiences; this is when delay, jitter and dropped services will hit. These are the moments from which operators need to learn for the future. Once they have, they will never face such events with any degree or trepidation again.

Assuring the connected experience through these peaks will raise the bar and create new standards of quality, new highs in excellence. It is not just athletes who’ll be racking up achievements at these Olympics- mobile operators can scrutinise the customer journey finitely to learn lessons for a next generation level of quality. They say that lighting never strikes twice; in this case, next time an event of such magnitude takes place, mobile operators will be more than ready for it.

“Mobile operators are going to derive enormous long-term benefits from the Olympics if they leverage the lessons learned,” says Mr Lyn Cantor, president of Tektronix Communications. “The trick will be in understanding where and why the quality problems which will occur, did occur. This event is the best live case study the industry has ever had in terms of preparing itself for an increasingly demanding future. The spikes in usage will be a huge challenge. Once operators have contended with it, however, such spikes will simply never create a threat to quality again.”

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