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Government deploys Wi-Fi for Olympics as mobile networks face capacity crunch

Kathleen Hall

The government is planning to deploy free Wi-Fi around London during the Olympic Games in 2012 amid fears that mobile phone networks could run out of capacity.

London Mayor Boris Johnson recently said the Olympics will place a strain on mobile networks.

Around 80% of internet traffic is expected to be video and user-generated, potentially stretching networks beyond capacity point with the recent growth in smart phone usage.

The government is planning to create free Wi-Fi areas around London to take the strain off networks as tourists flock to the capital. A number of companies are bidding to deliver free Wi-Fi around London in time for the Olympics.

Westminster City Council is expected to be the first authority to roll-out free Wi-Fi, with other areas following after the contracts are awarded.

Around six Wi-Fi providers have been shortlisted including BT, Sky, 02 and Virgin. The framework is expected to be announced by November. However, there are concerns that this will leave little time to deploy the networks before July 2012.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said this could be a missed opportunity for the capital: "Millions of Londoners, visitors from other parts of the UK and international tourists will want and expect to easily access the internet on the move.

"Widespread, consistent, open Wi-Fi will ensure everyone can share their experiences of what should be the greatest show on earth. They will want keep in touch with friends and family who might be elsewhere in London, at the Games or back home and it will also help people find out more about local attractions, places of interest, or the world class shopping and restaurants that this city offers, helping Britain's economy," he said.

The news follows Three mobile's warning that it could run out of capacity on some masts by the end of 2012.


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