Speed 17 August 2012

You might have heard of an event that’s just taken place in east London. No, not Sharon returning to EastEnders, the Olympics. Aside from dominating newspapers, TV screens, advertising billboards, these Games are set to be remembered as the ‘first social Olympics’. #Stagetaken indeed.

It marks a significant landmark in how we interact with content, and how we are consuming it. So popular has our habit of commenting online become that we’re now migrating from our telly boxes to watching sport online, flicking a tab, and immediately commenting on what we’ve just seen. It’s remarkable to learn the BBC announced the Games attracted a bigger web audience in one day than the entire 2010 football World Cup. That’s simply astonishing.

Facebook too was bombarded with posts about the fastest man on the planet after Usain Bolt grabbed the gold in the 200ms. But it was a retiring Olympian, Michael Phelps, who saw his popularity increase most significantly, adding 747,300 new digital fans. Twitter too saw huge spikes in traffic. At one point, people were asked to limit the amount of tweets they were sending as networks struggled to cope.

Whilst we all recover from the drama and the excitement, it raises a few questions. For mobile network operators (MNOs), how are they going to cope if this growth in demand continues to rise? More connected devices, an increasing number of posts, the impending 4G licenses – it all adds up to a huge dilemma for MNOs. How do they keep people happy, but also find a way of making a profit from mobile data?

The busiest day for the BBC saw 2.8 petabytes, the equivalent of 700,000 DVDs full of information, gobbled up by sports fans hungry for content. Someone has to provide this capacity and currently we’re all getting very comfy with our ‘all you can eat’ data packages.

Whilst there were points when networks showed the strain from the demand for data, we haven’t yet hit a tipping point. However, as we stand four years away from Rio 2016, MNOs are going to have to get their house in order or face dropping the baton.


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