Just as the athletes have been in training for their events, the U.K. is doing everything it can to prepare for the toll that will be taken on its spectrum during the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games.

Some 26,000 members of the world’s media will base themselves in London to cover the Games, making London 2012 the biggest media event in history.

Demand most likely will be fueled by the increasing use of wireless technologies by broadcasters, including wireless cameras and wireless microphones, that will deliver close-up action coverage to the estimated global audience of more than 4 billion viewers.

In addition, the extensive use of two-way radios by the organizers, talkback systems for broadcasters, timing and scoring systems, and sports commentary systems for the audience also are essential for the organization of the Games.

As such, the event presents a unique logistical challenge never faced before by the U.K.: the need to assign as many as 20,000 wireless frequencies for the Games in London — more than double the number usually assigned in a year. However, regulator Ofcom says it has been working on a plan since 2006 to help ensure viewers won’t miss any of the events.

Demand For The Airwaves

It is expected that the demand will come from the following sources:

>> Increased use of wireless cameras to achieve more dramatic and close-up action shots;
>> More wireless microphones to add flexibility in capturing the sounds of the Games;
>> Wireless location, timing and scoring technology to give more detailed and immediate information about the event as it happens;
>> Wireless communications used by team members, sports officials, organizers and support staff;
>> Sports commentaries distributed wirelessly to the venue audience for the benefit of hearing- and visually-impaired spectators; and
>> The use of wireless communications by security and emergency staff to keep everyone at the event safe

Meeting Demand

To meet the extra demands of broadcasters, media and the London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG) during the Games, Ofcom has developed a plan to secure additional capacity. This will be achieved in four main ways:

>> By borrowing spectrum on a short-term basis from such public-sector bodies as the Ministry of Defense;
>. Helping to ensure that civil spectrum is used efficiently by making unused frequencies available. An example of this is spectrum that soon will be auctioned by Ofcom, but is currently not being used;
>> Making use of spectrum freed by the analog-to-digital transition; and
>> Using unlicensed spectrum.

In preparation for the increased demand for spectrum during the Games, Ofcom has been running a series of test events during 2011 and 2012, including such high-profile events as the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey, the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone and the Sail for Gold event at Weymouth. Ofcom also will be responsible for managing the airwaves during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration, set for June 2-5. 

Minimizing Interference

Ofcom has built a state-of-the-art spectrum assignment system that will manage access to spectrum, keeping it both free for those who need it and free of interference. In addition, a modern sensor network also has been built across the country to identify any interference issues before they arise.

And Ofcom will be deploying a larger-than-normal team of radio engineers to track down and deal with any cases of interference that do occur. Ofcom is supplementing its field engineering team with expert colleagues from other European countries.

Comments Ofcom COO Jill Ainscough, “Ready and prepared for this challenge, Ofcom recognizes that there is no room for complacency. We are working behind the scenes to make this capacity available, to ensure that this demand is met.”


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