Ofcom to borrow spectrum from MoD to cope with Olympics Wi-Fi demand

Ofcom has revealed plans to borrow spectrum from public sector bodies, such as the Ministry of Defence, to cope with increased demand by wireless technologies during the London 2012 Olympics.

The communications regulator experts the demand for Wi-Fi in London to more than double during the seven-week event.

“The event presents a unique logistical challenge never faced before by the UK, with a need to assign up to 20,000 wireless frequencies to be used for the Games in London, more than double the number usually assigned a year,” Ofcom said.

Other ways in which Ofcom plans to secure extra capacity is by using spectrum freed up by the digital switchover, which takes place this April for the London TV region, and using spectrum that is available without the need for a licence.

It also aims to make unused frequencies available for use during the Games. For example, spectrum that will soon be auctioned by Ofcom, but is not currently being used.

Demand is expected from the Games’ organiser Locog, with its use of walkie-talkies, broadcasters and their wireless cameras, microphones and talkback systems and scoring systems and sports commentary systems for the audience.

The regulator also expects great demand for spectrum from the 26,000 media representatives expected in London to cover the Games.

In addition, to efficiently manage the allocation of spectrum, Ofcom has built a spectrum assignment system to minimise interference and keep spectrum free for those who need it.

It has also built a sensor network across the country to identify any interference issues before they arise, and a team of radio engineers will be on hand to deal with any problems.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media has revealed that it carried out a private trial of 4G technology in Oxford Street in London last month, using spectrum borrowed under a trial license from Ofcom.

According to the Financial Times, the fibre broadband provider is planning to launch a nationwide wireless network using small transmitters connected to its fibre network that can deliver superfast mobile services. Mobile data broadcast through this technology would be six times faster than the current 3G network.

To roll out this technology, Virgin would need licensed spectrum, and the trial has fuelled suggestions that the company is considering bidding for some of the 4G frequencies that Ofcom is expected to auction at the end of this year.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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