(Makes clear BT, not Vodafone, is official Olympic provider,
By Avril Ormsby and Paul Sandle
LONDON, July 29 Sports fans attending the London
Olympics were told on Sunday to avoid non-urgent text messages
and tweets during events because overloading of data networks
was affecting television coverage.
Commentators on Saturday's men's cycling road race were
unable to tell viewers how far the leaders were ahead of the
chasing pack because data could not get through from the GPS
satellite navigation system travelling with the cyclists.
It was particularly annoying for British viewers, who had
tuned in hoping to see a medal for sprint king Mark Cavendish.
Many inadvertently made matters worse by venting their anger
on Twitter at the lack of information.
An International Olympic Committee spokesman said the
network problem had been caused by the messages sent by the
hundreds of thousands of fans who lined the streets to cheer on
the British team.
"Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going
to say 'Don't, you can't do it', and we would certainly never
prevent people," he said. "It's just - if it's not an urgent,
urgent one, please kind of take it easy."
Other events due to take place on London's roads include the
men's and women's marathon and triathlon.
An explosion in the use of mobile phones to access the
Internet and take and send photos and video has made London 2012
the first true "social media Games", but also put pressure on
the networks. The host broadcaster, the BBC, is enabling fans to
see many events live on their smartphones.
Mobile operators and infrastructure companies had said they
expected to be able to meet the extra demand.
The IOC spokesman said it appeared the problem lay with
oversubscription on one particular network, and talks had taken
place in an attempt to share more of the data. "It's a network
issue, and it is that which we are working on," he said.
Official 2012 Olympic communications services provider BT
, Vodafone and O2, owned by Spain's Telefonica
, said they had not seen any network problems.
BT says it has provided four times the network capacity of
the 2008 Beijing Games to meet the increased demand, laying
enough cable to stretch between London and New York.
O2, subcontracted by BT to provide mobile services within
the Olympic Village, suffered a glitch this month when a third
of its customers were hit by a 24-hour network failure.
Steven Hartley at Ovum Telecoms Strategy said at the time
that, while mobile capacity was being upgraded at transport and
crowd hotspots, spikes in demand at peripheral sites could prove
Television coverage is in the hands of the Olympic
Broadcasting Services, created by the IOC to ensure uniform
coverage at all Games.
The IOC spokesman conceded that asking people not to send
messages at key moments "may not have an awful lot of effect".
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)