Olympics Wi-Fi will be ‘an unmitigated disaster’


Wi-Fi at the London Olympics site will be "an unmitigated disaster" thanks to the closed-off planning of the project, IT Pro has been told.

Sean Larner, vice president of international sales at wireless access point (AP) manufacturer Xirrus, said vendors should have been allowed to come together to create the best solution, rather than let the contracted supplier BT run the show.

Another major industry player, from a company that wished to remain anonymous, said they had similar concerns over the management of the project.

Right now, cast iron guarantee it won't work.

The Olympic Park site is nearly completed yet the Wi-Fi arrangements remain shrouded in mystery, with providers reticent about operations.

"It would have been far better for the vendors of wireless, both at the front end and back end at the wired side, if we'd just downed competitive talks and worked together to make sure we could provide a proper wireless infrastructure, a proper wireless network, for the Olympics," Larner said.

"Right now, cast iron guarantee it won't work... Our technical solution would have been to have sat down with the other providers and actually designed a network between ourselves so you had something that works."

Xirrus is doing work at the Olympics, but not at the main site. It will be supplying the APs for the Dutch team's base.

Larner claimed the company did not bid for work at the main site. He said his opinions were based on what Xirrus partners had said. The company has worked with the likes of Orange and provided Wi-Fi for major tech conferences including Salesforce.com's Dreamforce event.

As for whether the situation would be reversible, Larner claimed it was "too late."

"We've waited too long, people are laying down plans, you've got the APs being deployed in certain areas," he added.

"Unless you have someone who can really contain the wireless network... youre going to find yourself with journalists, consumers, whoever, who are just going to have a bad experience."

He claimed simple physics would be behind failures at the Olympics, claiming he did not believe a pure 5GHz or a pure 2.4GHz service the two bands of spectrum used by Wi-Fi - would be provided.

"They're walking into a real headache. They haven't chosen the right means of providing the right kinds of wireless technology based on the requirements of the events," Larner added.

BT and Locog, the private body organising the 2012 Games, were fairly quiet in response to Larner's claims and the concerns raised by other major industry players to IT Pro.

"Discussions are ongoing and we are working closely with Locog to look at Wi-Fi access at the Olympic Park. Announcements will be made soon," a BT spokesperson said.

Locog said it was still working on the Wi-Fi at the Olympic Park, which covers various areas of East London.

Neither would comment on whether the discussions had left out other, potentially valuable, providers.

Bjorn Thorngren, director for EMEA at Boingo Wireless, urged Wi-Fi operators to get going on plans immediately.

"It is important that Hotspot operators start now, at the latest, to conclude access network upgrades in time for the Olympics," he told IT Pro.

"Equally important is to consider the authentication and security piece of the Wi-Fi network, in terms of carriers managing excessive auto log-on attempts from smartphones and the security implications around an event like the Olympics where terrorist threats are feared."

Locog came under fire this week, after the organisation was accused of being overly secretive about how many tickets were being sold and at what cost. Locog has refused to provide a detailed breakdown of such data.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.