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Wireless browsers shut out of the Olympics

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Mobile broadband over 3G may be able to offer speeds to compete with ADSL, but it can't offer access to the Olympics - at least not from the BBC, who are blocking mobile users from video streams of the event to comply with IOC rulings.

Those wanting to watch the latest developments at the Olympics should be sure not to rely on a 3G USB dongle, such as those being pushed so heavily by the mobile operators, as the Beeb is refusing to provide content to those it can't locate. The corporation complains that it can't be absolutely sure where a mobile broadband user is, and they're not going to take any chances upsetting the International Olympic Committee by streaming video out of the country.

The BBC tries, with limited success, to restrict most of its content to UK viewers - we pay the licence fee, after all. But matching an IP address to a physical location is far from an exact science. Satellite broadband users often find themselves traced to the earth-station of their operator, in Belgium or the Netherlands, and thus unable to access content restricted to UK IP addresses. But those using 3G wireless have, so far, been able to freely access content as they could be relied upon to be in the UK.

The problem comes when mobile customers roam to another country - all IP traffic is routed through their home network, so they appear to be still in the UK despite physically being abroad, and that's got the IOC all upset.

Given the price of roaming data, and the small numbers involved, this has never been a significant problem in the past, and mobile broadband users continue to enjoy unrestricted access to the BBC's iPlayer content and all their other services, but the IOC isn't taking any chances and has forced the BBC to block video being streamed to mobile broadband users.

The BBC blames the operators for not being able to inform them where viewers, while the operators say it's nothing to do with them as they just route the data. So the mobile broadband user is stuck reading text descriptions or keeping up to date on the rest of the sports news, if there is any. ®

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