O2's network outage causes concern ahead of London's Olympic Games

UK operator O2 suffered a network outage Wednesday afternoon that ran into Thursday morning, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers incensed, with many voicing their grievances via Twitter. Although the service has now been restored, the outage does not bode well for how the UK’s networks will cope with the influx of visitors to London expected later this month for the Olympic Games.

According to Steven Hartley, practice leader of Ovum’s telecoms strategy team, this will cause network traffic spikes, and put pressure on the UK’s mobile networks, which already have a poor reputation compared to others in Western Europe.

“While UK mobile operators claim to be prepared, they have not yet given indication of the scale of their plans. Mobile capacity upgrades at key transport and crowd hotspots will undoubtedly take place before the Games. However, if there is a major public transport failure, the spilling over of people from a location where high network traffic has been anticipated to less well-prepared peripheral cells could prove disastrous,” he said.

He added that the national perspective is both a fixed and mobile concern. The BBC, the UK’s state broadcaster, has announced plans to stream live video of 27 different events on its website on the two Saturdays during the Games.

Francesco Radicati, analyst at Informa, believes there is room for improvement in customer experience management

“BT has conceded that it has brought its fixed broadband investments forward by six to 12 months to cope with such demand. However, where that demand appears will not be easy to predict, which makes fixed and mobile preparations difficult to assess. For example, when a British athlete reaches a final, local support will cause a concentration of demand from their hometown, as well as an increase across the nation.”

Hartley added that he hopes that concerns over UK operators’ ability to cope during the Games are unfounded and that they pass without any telecoms incident, and said that connectivity at the Olympic Park can at least be predicted and planned based on a greenfield implementation of the latest technologies and architectures.

“However, the UK as a whole must rely on previous investments to carry it through – and these have been less than optimal in the mobile space,” Hartley concluded.

It is not yet known what caused the wide scale outage for O2, but the situation sounded serious. Telecoms.com did have a meeting booked in with the firm for Thusday afternoon (on another matter), but it was cancelled as the spokespeople were called in to help restore the network.


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