Will 4G be the Big Winner of the Olympics?
If you are a sports fan like me, you are getting excited for the 2012 Olympics taking place in London from July 27 to August 12. Although there are some 30 plus sports, I will watch to see how Team USA does in basketball, swimming and track and field.
The games this summer will feature more live streaming than ever before. While it is great to gather the family and watch the games at home, it also will be convenient to log onto my cell phone or iPad to watch live broadcasts, too. The 2012 Games present an interesting performance test not just for the athletes but also for our wireless networks. The quality of the streaming experience will vary across geographies in the U.S. and worldwide. Since the 2008 games held in Beijing, many parts of the world have deployed faster 4G networks. Subscribers of LTE 4G technology are enjoying download speeds of 20 to 25 Mbps. Just to put that speed into perspective, at 25 Mbps you can download a 4 minute song that is 5MB in less than 3 seconds. Mobilehotspot.com offers a good primer on 4G technology.
In the U.S., NBC plans to stream 3,500 hours of the games on http://nbcolympics.com . Viewers will need to go through a verification process that requires proof of cable, satellite or telecom service.
Internationally, the BBC is offering the most comprehensive coverage ever of an Olympic Game. In addition to all of their broadcast channels, they will offer 24 live HD streams from the BBC Sport website.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will provide video streams on its YouTube channel to 64 territories across Asia and Africa that do not have access from IOC broadcast partners. This includes such countries as India, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
The quality of streaming movies or sporting events on mobile devices depends on a number of factors. These include such factors as:
Do you have 4G service in your area?
How many cell towers are there in your calling area as this impacts signal strength?
How many other mobile users are also using same cell towers?
Is your phone or tablet device equipped with 4G technology?
For those consumers who have true 4G coverage with compatible devices, they will enjoy the highest quality streaming experience with less buffering and higher resolution. It will be interesting to see if the excitement and drama of the Olympics drive more people to 4G devices and carriers with more 4G service areas. My guess is it will.