Engineer media olympics

Technological Olympic conversations and what’s so special about Finsbury Park?

We all had a great time watching the Olympics, be it physically going to the games, on the telly or online (or all three). I’m sure we all agree that the BBC did a great job. There were comments regarding the quality of the NBC coverage in the USA but a) I live in the UK so don’t care and b) NBC apparently had 9.9 million users visiting their website so they just may have been getting their dose of Olympics from that source.

In the long run up to the games I wrote a great deal about the technology and capacity being put in place for the Olympics. The BBC in particular had geared its iPlayer servers up to expect 1Terabit per second of streaming. In the end the service peaked at around 700Gbps. The BBCs answer to hitting its capacity ceiling would have been to reduce the bandwidth available per stream rather than stop new users accessing the service or suffering service degradation so this worked out well.

Interestingly the Beeb says that it’s Olympic peak number of viewers expressed as the number of streams was during the Tennis singles finals at 820,000 requests.  Bradley Wiggins’ time trial  was similar to that of the Jubilee weekend at 729,000 streams. The peak daily volume was 2.8PetaBytes! 33% of all streams were to mobile devices.

Virgin Media, who had provisioned a huge 240Gbps of additional internet access bandwidth only ended up using a third of it. Good news from the customer experience perspective and the additional bandwidth now in place will soon be used up so it wasn’t wasted effort. Virgin’s peak was during Usain Bolt’s 100m final win.

Virgin also had a great story to tell with its WiFi on the London Underground. With hotspots in 62 stations Virgin had started the Olympics fortnight with 277,000 users registering 275,000 email addresses so some people must use multiple devices (presumably unless I’ve got it wrong). By the end of the games the number of users had grown 166,000 to 443,000. The number of sessions peaked at 20.7M on August 13th, the day after the closing ceremony with Finsbury Park being the busiest station!! What’s so special about Finsbury Park? Virgin’s Underground WiFi traffic grew by 34% over the Olympics period.

Evidence suggests that network traffic generally peaked the day after the closing ceremony which we can only ascribe to people catching up on all the Eastenders episodes they missed whilst watching the Olympics (losers!).

BT reported similar peaks at similar times to Virgin though its most popular times were for different events which just might reflect a different customer demographic. Also on the BT network the Andy Murray doubles finals game had more traffic than his singles which is different to what the Beeb was saying. Both could be true as BTs customers weren’t necessarily watching the live stream online. They might have been watching the games on TV and using the internet to fill in with other content.

BT also said that the saw a specific increase during Mr Bean’s stint at the Opening ceremony – folks sharing their excitement online or watching the video a second time – it was fantastic, fair play.

The London Internet Exchange traffic peaked at just over 1.2Tbps. Compared with its pre-games level of 1.1Tbps this might not sound like a big rise but we should remember that traffic normally drops in August because I go on holiday1 and taking this into account the actual growth is probably more like 170Gbps. Note LINX traffic in August 2011 was 800Gbps. This is not a like for like comparison as LINX now has more members using its network.

Btw if anyone can explain why Finsbury Park I’m sure all readers of this blog would be grateful.

1 only joking but you know what I mean – I tend not to use the internet when on holiday but I hammered it this time.