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O2 dropped the ball in Olympic cycle race Twitter fiasco

Twits blamed for network's inadequacies

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

O2's mobile network is to blame after a surge in tweets from spectators' smartphones scuppered the live reporting of an Olympic cycling road race.

Onlookers were told to stop using Twitter on their mobes to allow vital data to reach the organisers. It is understood tiny mobile GPS electronics on athletes' bikes were unable to send their timings due to the saturated data network. Broadcasters were also unable to receive this information, leaving one BBC reporter to use his watch to estimate the timings of a race.

"There was a capacity issue with Box Hill at the weekend," an O2 spokesperson told The Register. "You can imagine that all of the people around that area were frantically using their phones so that was the reason for the oversubscription."

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) was picking up race data from location-reporting transmitters on the bikes. This data was then sent to the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), which handles the on-screen graphics, cameras and other bits and pieces for the telly companies covering the sporting event.

OBS was getting the blame from some quarters for the lack of coverage of the cycling races, which are of particular interest to Brits as it's one of the sports their athletes are more likely to win. But the service said its coverage wasn't nobbled.

"Where we were affected was the lack of data and information coming from LOCOG," the OBS told The Register, adding that it was getting its stats from LOCOG through a cable, not over the air. The OBS spokesperson said that in its pre-Olympics testing, it had also experienced interference on Box Hill, despite promises from Ofcom that the frequencies it needed would be cleared.

LOCOG would only say that there was a "telecoms issue".

O2 said that it monitors its network 24 hours a day. "If we see congestion, we do everything we can to minimise it by making adjustments to our network," the spokesperson said.

The Twitterati was less than impressed at getting the blame for the network issues. One tweeted: "Sending timing data over cell network - what could go wrong?" ®

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