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The 2012 London Olympics Social Media Spike

Connect a generation; will data delivery fall at the first hurdle?

The Olympics could be a ‘make or break’ event for mobile providers. The use of social media at these Olympics will demand more from mobile services, with higher numbers of people than ever before.

The Olympic motto – ‘faster, higher, stronger’ could serve, when these Olympics are over, as the development agenda for operators able to grasp the lessons learned.

Will they, for example, be able to deliver to the level of expectations of today’s social media users when the excitement really takes hold of the world’s imagination and everyone wants to share the experience – consuming and regurgitating data on a scale that we have simply never seen before?

Faster, higher, stronger

Over 8 million tickets for the Olympics have been sold, and the resident population of London is 7.8 million, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union.

Facebook has launched a dedicated ‘Discover London 2012’ page for its 845 million users. Just 4 years ago, at the time of  the 2008 Beijing Olympic, Facebook was nothing; that’s ‘nothing’ when defined against today’s standards, since in 2008 Facebook had just 100 million users (it seems rather quaint now to recall that, all those years ago in 2008 we all thought 100 million was a lot of people).

Twitter had 6 million users in 2008 and now has 140 million. Over 8 million ticket holders will enter the vicinity of London during a concentrated 17-day period.

One further fact that hardly needs substantiation in today’s connected world – since we all know it’s mostly true – everyone will be connected in some way.

Social media goes seismic

Such vast numbers of people gathering together in a relatively small geographic area for a relatively small amount of time is going to register on all sorts of scales as a ‘first’, a ‘record’ and, in all certainty, ‘a phenomenon’. It will be a huge hurdle for operators to meet all the expectations of their users and even though the networks will hold up there is likely to be some loss of quality. The question is – who will be the most affected? And when?

The Official London 2012 Join In app is a free mobile app offering interactive connectivity to every aspect of the games. If users download this app and find that it runs slow, intermittently, or simply doesn’t deliver as promised, they will assume either that the app was prematurely launched in a beta version (this is how mobile users talk; they understand technology launch phases and often make allowances for teething problems) or wasn’t very good to begin with.

Savvy social media users will not be deterred; they know how to navigate their way round the sites and apps they need to get the information and insights they crave. If they meet with a fall-off in quality when they make their regular connections into social media sites, they will assume it’s their service provider who has let them down.

Social media users will spend half their time watching the event and half their time communicating about it. They’ll talk to athletes in real-time, update Facebook, tweet and shoot and snap and send. They’ll expect the same quality of service they always receive from their providers at home and will be heartily upset if it isn’t delivered.

There’ll be a thousand and one moments that these users wish to share and not to miss out on, but there will be consequences for the operators if these users do miss out on historic moments.

The best customer imaginable- the heavy data user prepared to pay for premium services and always-on connectivity – will become the worst… dissatisfied, looking for an alternative provider and probably sharing their adverse experience with as many friends as possible- using their existing provider’s services for one last, ironic communication.

Will these Olympics be a game changer?

“Mobile operators have to be ready for this major challenge and replicate the strapline of the Olympics itself. They have to inspire a generation,”

Says Lyn Cantor, president of Tektronix Communications.

“It will be a learning curve for many as they identify the factors that led to a degradation in the quality of service experienced by the end-user. The trick will be in understanding where and why it occurs and using the Olympics as the best live case study the industry has ever had in terms of preparing itself for an increasingly demanding future. Operators need to assure the connected experience for the long haul and use this phenomenal real-life case study to get into the user journey to leverage as much information as possible to get themselves in great shape for the next big challenge.”

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