Richard Caul, EE

This summer’s Olympic Games represented a huge undertaking for UK operators faced with the challenge of delivering mobile coverage to ten million visitors across the Olympic Park and associated venues.

In order to meet the demands, Everything Everywhere, Vodafone, 3UK and O2 formed the Joint Operators Olympic Group (JOOG), created specifically to deal with the mobile traffic challenges during the Games. The group adopted a Fibre Distributed Antenna System (Fibre DAS) supplied by Axell Wireless and installed multiple base stations in a single location – using a configuration known as a “Base Station Hotel” (BTS Hotel) to propagate cellular coverage throughout the entire park.

EE led the project to provide coverage around the main 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium and Telecoms.com caught up with Richard Caul, senior manager for core voice platforms support – network and service operations at EE, to find out how the operators banded together to tackle their own Olympic challenge.

How was it decided that EE would take the lead on this project, and what does taking the lead involve?

A couple years before the games were due to start, all operators agreed that sharing infrastructure and cost was the best way to ensure successful games. It was decided at a joint operators meeting that EE would build the BTS Hotel within the Olympic park and supply and build the infrastructure in the Olympic Stadium. All other operators also took responsibility for other venues and provided BTS macro sites within and off the park.

EE took the lead for operations support; taking responsibility to ensure everything was in place to maintain the network up to and including both the Olympic and Paralympics. This meant chairing all the meetings and ensuring contracts were in place to support all the networks with our chosen third party suppliers. Axell Wireless was one our main suppliers providing the RF over Fibre technology and we worked with them to ensure we had 24-7 monitoring, dedicated teams on park during games time and a contract in place with challenging KPI’s and SLA’s. The Operational Lead had to make sure every network was ready, sites were alarm free and every fault was being addressed and ready to support any escalation during the games.

What were the key challenges in ensuring connectivity for all consumers during the Olympics?

The key challenges were to ensure adequate capacity across all the park venues and within every Olympic venue off park. This was achieved by using Axell Wireless RF over Fibre technology and centrally located operators base station equipment in a purpose built datacentre in the middle of the Olympic Park at the BTS Hotel for the on-park venues. This way all operators could share infrastructure and provide large capacity in concentrated areas such as the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics centre. All operators also ensured dedicated nodes for Olympic venues and extra core capacity to meet the increased demand for voice and data services.

We also provided dedicated staff on park 24-7, who could quickly access and resolve issues as they arose, along with a dedicated team placed within the Olympic Technology Operations Centre (TOC) in Canary Wharf.

Can you talk us through how the UK’s operators teamed up to provide quality of service during the event?

All the operators had dedicated real time monitoring of every node covering the Olympic venues, including Axell Wireless which provided a dedicated monitoring team looking at all the on and off park infrastructure alarms for their equipment, covering venues like the Velodrome, Greenwich Park and Horse Guards Parade.

We also provided dedicated network performance teams who were constantly optimising the network to ensure quality of service was maintained and improved if performance dipped below any KPI threshold. Every day each operator would hold internal calls to review their own performance and then all operators would review performance together. Any recommendations then would be reviewed and agreed before any changes were made on the shared network.

Lastly we placed a dedicated team in Canary Wharf and on the Olympic park 24-7 which ensured every fault was quickly analysed and fixed within very demanding SLA’s. This team controlled all access and every network fault. In this way we ensured any common network issues were quickly identified and promptly resolved.

What kind of devices did you have to connect  and how did you ensure QoS for them?

Most of the devices used across the Olympic Park and Olympic Venues, were smartphones, tablets, data dongles and a few M2M devices were used across the venues for payment services.

All operators provided dedicated nodes and extra capacity to meet the voice and data demand, especially in the transmission backhaul into the respective core networks. We also installed active nodes across the Olympic Park to measure and report real-time data performance. This enabled us to review and optimise where required across the network to meet demand. Operators also created dedicated real-time dashboards that enabled them to monitor data performance and, if needed, to increase capacity and optimise to ensure Quality of Service was maintained for all customers.

Watch the Olympics case study video here.

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