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Paul Gainham

Movies, Majesty and the Mobile Olympics: Will UK Network PLC cope?

by Juniper Employee ‎12-20-2011 01:43 PM - edited ‎12-20-2011 01:43 PM

In what looks like the boxing mismatch of the year of almost heavyweight vs lightweight proportions, in the red corner stands the lightweight incumbent; UK Network PLC whilst in the red corner stand the 3 Heavyweight challengers of Netflix, The Diamond Jubilee and the Mobile Olympics.


2012 will witness the biggest traffic assault on UK network PLC in living memory from 3 major events


  • The launch of Netflix to UK audiences in early 2012
  • The Queens Diamond Jubilee in June
  • The Mobile Olympics in July / August

The big question: Will UK Network PLC cope with this assault?


To answer that, you first have to look at what that assault will consist of.


Netflix is the one of the world’s largest Internet subscription services for TV and Video viewing via the Internet and claims some 23 million subscribers in North America and Canada. They have publicly stated their intent to launch their service into the European market beginning with the UK in early 2012 and have already publicised their agreement to provide BBC content on their platform.


Netflix traffic now accounts for nearly 30% of peak downstream traffic in North America and has lead to a number of net neutrality oriented discussions as some ISP’s within the North American market place have resorted to bandwidth caps to limit the impact it has on them.


Statistics from Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena spotlight from Spring 2011 showed a typical monthly traffic consumption of some 40GB for those users on TV or PC whilst interestingly this doubled to 80GB for those using the XBOX360 as a viewing console.


Although clearly in 2012 Netflix will be into new service ramp mode, the traffic their UK service generates will be a significant, additional and persistent uplift to current residual traffic patterns that UK Network PLC has to carry.  Remember the impact the BBC iPlayer launch had back in 2008 on ISP’s networks?


The Queens Diamond Jubilee which is planned for June 2012 and has an additional public holiday as part of the celebration is another event that will challenge UK Network PLC in 2012.  Unlike the Netflix launch and ongoing traffic uplift, the Diamond Jubilee celebration is a one off, but given the popularity of the Royal Family, this is sure to generate a pronounced spike upwards in traffic as many not only look to view live but also utilise playback TV facilities heavily.


As this is a truly one-off event, forecasting what the spike of traffic could be is difficult and in a move that may result in me receiving an invite to an extended period at the Tower of London, I am going to compare this to a major sporting event, the England vs Slovenia football game of June 2010 which saw at peak, some 800,000 concurrent iPlayer streams and UK Internet traffic account for nearly a quarter of all of Akamai’s server traffic.


Probably the biggest impact of all comes with the London Olympics which runs from the 27th July to the 12th August.  Put simply, this will be the world’s first ‘Mobile Olympics’ at which users are expected to engage with video viewing, sharing and interaction behaviour the likes of which have never been seen or experienced before.

Some Interesting and eye watering statistics


  • This is the first Olympics of the tablet era
  • 80% of all mobile traffic expected to be Video compared to 20% at the Beijing Olympics of 2008.
  • 500,000 additional visitors to London – in theory that could be near to 500,000 additional mobile devices
  • 9.5m tickets available for the entire games – Mobile device density likely to be very high

So what does all of this mean to UK network PLC and will it really cope?


The first thing to state here and remind readers of is that the Internet was, is and for the foreseeable future will be a Best Effort, NO guarantee service and yet our expectations have been set to such a degree that any degradation in viewing quality or slowdown in sending and sharing will not only be looked on very negatively by end users BUT will also command a lot of negative press at a time when UK PLC is visible to a world-wide audience.


The key for all of the network providers that make up ‘UK Network PLC’ is to ensure they have planned the ‘3 C’s; Capacity, Coverage and Content Handling, particularly for the time period of the Olympic Games




The traffic crunch around the London Olympics will hit all aspects of the network but some pinch points are more vulnerable than others (Mobile Backhaul and signalling, Peering Points and the Core Backbone) and need additional attention.


  • As a network provider have I built in the right levels of resilience and traffic management into my network?
  • Have I put in place sufficient Mobile Signalling capacity?
  • Can I easily light up new wavelengths to add capacity in the core of the network easily and quickly?
  • Is my networking equipment ready to move quickly to 10GE or multiples of 10GE should traffic demand dictate it? Do I have the necessary additional interface cards ready and available?
  • Does my main Peering location have the capacity to cope with the surge in traffic demands?



As a Service Provider with both Mobile and Wi-Fi based access networking offers


  • Do I have in place a clear wi-fi offload solution should the existing 3G networks become heavily congested?
  • Have I put in place a clearly defined marketing campaign to highlight the benefits of wi-fi access over 3G for the period of the games? 

As an Enterprise with people employed in the Greater London Area who may be looking at the period of the Olympics to play their part in mitigating transport overcrowding


  • Have I made sufficient provision for an extended period of home working and what if ‘standard Internet access slows down due to excess background traffic?
  • Do I have a throughput SLA in place for telecommuter DSL lines?

Content Handling


Given that the games will see a tremendous rise in video viewing and playback


  • As a Service Provider, have I put in place a sufficiently robust, distributed and agile video caching /optimisation capability that integrates into the network infrastructure and provides a significant optimisation benefit for common video services and traffic?


With the Netflix launch, Diamond Jubilee and the ‘Mobile Olympics’ it’s clear that UK Network PLC will be facing some severe challenges in 2012 and although many Network Operators and Enterprises have been planning for 2012 for some time now, there could well be some ‘surprises’ given we are in a new content and device usage era combined with the series of inflection point or mega event occurrences outlined earlier.


The trick, at a very visible time, will be how quickly organisations can react to those surprises to maintain service, coverage and end user performance consistency.


I just need to program my Satnav: Destination The Tower of London.

by Juniper Employee on ‎01-09-2012 01:06 AM

Some related news...


O2 begins rolling out 'Europe's largest free WiFi network' in London this month

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