The upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games continue driving extensive Wi-Fi deployments, with British Telecom confirming it will have half a million Wi-Fi hotspots deployed in time for the games this summer and will also be the exclusive provider of public Wi-Fi service within the Olympic Park.
The company, which is the official communications services partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, already operates in excess of 475,000 hotspots in the London metro area. Those hotspots are deployed in thousands of independent businesses and homes as well as outdoor hotspots across Westminster. BT operates more than 4 million hotspots across whole of the United Kingdom.
According to BT, the Olympic Park will be the largest high density Wi-Fi venue ever deployed and will entail nearly 1,000 access points across nine Olympic sites including the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Center, Velodrome and all public areas of the Olympic Park in east London.
Access to the Wi-Fi hotspots will be free for BT broadband customers as well as millions of people who carry Android, iOS and other smartphone devices and have service contracts with certain UK and international network providers. BT said customers should contact their providers to find out if they will be able to access the hotspots under their existing contracts. Prepaid vouchers will also be available for online purchase by those who are not eligible for the free service.
By providing cellular offloading, BT's Wi-Fi hotspot network could be crucial to alleviating congestion on 3G mobile networks and by enabling users to upload and download data without exceeding his or her individual mobile contract's allowance.
In September 2011, Boris Johnson, London's mayor, voiced concerns that UK mobile networks would face a "massive strain" during the Olympics as sports enthusiasts push capacity to the limit with text and picture messaging. Johnson promised that London would be blanketed with Wi-Fi coverage in time for the games to help alleviate the expected traffic crunch.
According to an article in TechWeekEurope, individual service providers, such as O2, have also launched a number of hotspots in preparation for the event, and the Ministry of Defense has loaned UK telecom regulator Ofcom spectrum that can be used by security and emergency personnel.
In March, cable giant Virgin Media announced it had won a bid to provide free Wi-Fi in the London Underground for this summer's Olympic Games and will be a long-term provider of paid access in the subway's stations afterward. Service is slated to begin in July 2012. Virgin, in partnership with London Underground, intends to outfit more than 80 of the Tube's stations with Wi-Fi in time for the Olympics and hopes to have more than 120 outfitted by year's end.
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