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London 2012 Olympics: Will my ISP be able to handle it?

In case you haven’t noticed, the London 2012 Olympic Games kick off this weekend. While this will spell congested tubes and commuter frustration (for some of us) it hopefully won’t mean that our broadband connections will suffer.

We’ve already covered how to go about watching the Olympics here and we’re following Get Ahead of the Games (@GAOTG) on Twitter, but how prepared is your ISP?

Earlier in the month, the Cabinet Office warned that broadband “services may be slower during the [Games] or in very severe cases there may be drop outs,” before retracting its statement. Jokes about Governement IT competence aside, what are the ISPs saying?

London 2012 Olympics: Will my ISP be able to handle it?


BT is all set up for the Games, citing experience with events on a similar scale as crucial in making sure things run smoothly. A BT spokesperson said:

“BT has great experience of dealing with demand for broadband during major events, and we’ll be using tried and tested processes throughout the Games to monitor and adapt. We have done a huge amount of capacity planning work, which has included reviewing and learning from events like the World Cup, Royal Wedding and America’s Super Bowl as well as working with content providers such as the BBC. As a result we’ve built a capacity model for our core broadband networks and we’ve brought forward investment and capacity increases to meet the anticipated extra demand.”

On top of the extra planning and investment, we’ve also installed more than 475,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Greater London. This will give people additional opportunities to get online, keep in touch and share their experiences during this exciting time. These hotspots are made up of thousands of independent businesses and homes, plus outdoor hotspots across Westminster.”

Referring to ISPs using the BT Openreach network, a spokesperson added: “BT’s aim is to protect its customer experience during the Games. We’ve done lots of work with our communication provider customers (ISPs) and are bringing forward investment and increasing network capacity in order to meet the anticipated extra demand.”

Virgin Media

As well as piping Wi-Fi into the busiest of the London tube stations (73 at the last count), Virgin Media is confident that it’s fully prepared for the Games.

A Virgin Media spokesperson told us: “We’re always investing in our network and building in more capacity. As such, we’re prepared for growth in traffic on our network, including increases during the day as more people may choose to work from home or as more people watch more content online.”

Referring to the broadcast of the games in SD, HD and 3D, Virgin Media’s spokesperson added, “we’ve been working with our partners (content and technology) to ensure a seamless and robust delivery of content across our TV platform and are well prepared for a great summer of sport.”

Sky Broadband

A Sky spokesperson said; “We have a state-of-the-art network with high capacity and we don’t foresee any issues for our customers who want to connect this summer.”

Sky also told us that it will not amend its policy on traffic management – Sky remains one of the few UK ISPs that doesn’t have traffic shaping on its network.

While Sky remains confident that its network is up to the job, we were reminded that Sky has “set up 48 dedicated channels in HD and SD carrying the BBC’s live coverage of the Games to ensure that customers can watch or record all their favourites events using their Sky+HD box.”

We’re of the opinion that if you really want to watch the Olympics then perhaps the traditional broadcast method (i.e. your TV) might be best.


Likewise TalkTalk has chosen to keep calm and carry on piping broadband to the nation throughout the Olympics.

Clive Dorsman, Managing Director of TalkTalk Technology is assured TalkTalk’s wide reaching network can handle it. “On average, TalkTalk’s Next Generation Network handles 250GB of general IP traffic every second, rising to 460GB at peak times. Our equipment is installed at 2,300 exchanges and covers 93 per cent of the population. That’s three times as many exchanges as BT’s 21st Century Network.”

Early adopters of YouView who’ll want to watch the Games will “increase the demand” for bandwidth but “TalkTalk is continuing to unbundle more exchanges, so that more people can take advantage of the great value phone and broadband packages our customers rely on.”

We’re waiting to hear back from Orange and O2 Broadband on details of their Olympics preparedness.