With the Olympic Games just around the corner, network engineers everywhere are asking the same question: ‘How big an impact will the Olympics have on wireless networks?’ The Olympics can serve as a microcosm of analogies to a bigger issue – the impact of data surges on Diameter signaling, especially where LTE coverage is available.
The Olympics pose an opportunity for service providers to monitor Diameter signaling traffic and analyze the trends for future engineering. In doing so, they have many points to consider:
For one, it will be interesting to see how the cellular networks perform in London. Though the packet network will be upgraded to support higher data rates, the signaling core will remain SS7, as LTE will not be implemented in time for the Games.
Two, the devices and the savviness around their use have only improved since the last Olympics in Beijing, so social media and mobile devices will be the primary media over which events will be viewed and information shared. Video usage will be off the charts in comparison to what was possible in China, where the first “digital” Olympics took place (albeit on far fewer channels than are available today). There’s no question the London Games will generate unprecedented amounts of video content via official and not-so-official channels, such as Olympic Committee YouTube channels and related Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. All will see significant increases in their traffic as viewers in different countries elect to watch through their iPads and Smartphones.
NBC alone is expected to deliver 5,535 hours of programming, with HD programming available through broadcast channels. Additionally, NBC (and other broadcasters like the BBC) will provide live streams through various web sites and social media. While this may not have a direct impact on London mobile networks, there may be residual impacts on home networks where LTE is available, as social media connections will inevitably increase Diameter signaling –especially where connections are left on all day, and if policy is implemented to assure certain quality levels or to control congestion.
Another interesting point to ponder is the level of personalization that will emerge in these Olympics. For example, NBC will allow viewers to select what view of an event they want (i.e., what apparatus in a gymnastics event they want to see). That ability may generate a significant amount of video streams and hence a lot more signaling (albeit Diameter signaling as opposed to SS7 signaling).
In addition to watching the impact of actual video consumption, operators should watch closely the impact of WiFi, as roamers will have about 100,000 hotspots throughout London with which to alleviate roaming fees they’d otherwise incur on the mobile network.
In all, London will strive to provide 4 times the capacity than was possible in Beijing. With so many visitors and professionals covering the events (21,000 reporters converging on the city to cover the Games), every Gigabyte of capacity will count.
Not only should mobile operators consider the impact on London’s networks, but also the impact on their own networks, as fans not able to travel to London will watch their favorite athletes through the numerous online channels being made available to them.
With millions of Smartphones and tablets sold in the last several years (especially iPads and iPhones), expect a huge increase not only in data traffic but in signaling traffic as well.
As stated earlier, Diameter will be affected anywhere 3G or LTE is deployed. It’s just not clear yet how significantly. We suspect there are enough subscribers on LTE networks today to have an impact on any service provider’s network.
With so many variables to Diameter traffic engineering, it is impossible to put a number on the amount of Diameter traffic we will see just by evaluating data. Suffice it to say, however, there will be significant impacts on signaling as a whole, and where policy is implemented in 3G and LTE networks, that impact will be much greater.