Managed Services

Texts Are Too Over the Top

12:05 AM -- Something happened in this year's Olympics that hasn't in games past: Viewers are texting and tweeting and posting so much about the events that they're overwhelming the networks and interrupting coverage.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) asked viewers to "use another means" to send their mass texts and Tweets. I'm not surprised such a high-profile, global event is wreaking havoc on the networks in London, but the funny thing is, I thought operators were worried their customers already were using alternative means to text.

Ovum Ltd. , for example, suggests that operators lost $13.9 billion in potential SMS revenue in 2011 to social messaging apps like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iMessage, WhatsApp and even Twitter Inc. on their mobile phones. (See SMS Boom Days Are Over.)

Of course, operators will still generate a total of $722.7 billion in revenues from SMS between 2011 and 2016, according to Informa Telecoms & Media , so it probably depends on how you frame things. (See The Two Faces of OTT and Samsung Gets Its ChatOn Too.)

I recently spoke with Jim Israel, head of U.S. operations for SMS vendor Acision BV , which was out to dispel the notion of SMS cannibalization. But, the main point I took away was that it shouldn't matter what chat service consumers use. It's the wireless operators' job to make sure they all work together and provide the best possible experience for their customers.

They don't do that now, but Long Term Evolution (LTE) would be a good place to start with Rich Communications Suite (RCS) apps. Operators can use their network assets, like the phone book and presence, to make messaging more valuable and, most important, interoperable. This can all happen from one integrated portal that would still keep them in the value chain, just not the sole proprietor of it. (See Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat .)

The ideal would be that the messaging service defaults to the best, cheapest option. In the case of the Olympics and other high-congestion events, the default would be OTT apps. That'd be even more valuable if the different OTT apps talked to each other, too.

Embracing OTT in the mix may be too idealistic for wireless operators, but they at least need to think about how to make their services more compelling in any scenario and, importantly, to interoperate, so you can text anyone you want.

Otherwise, what are we supposed to do, actually call people on the phone?

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:25:14 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

Here's an idea -- put the device away for a couple of hours and watch the event, rather than spend the time trying to impress people with the fact that you are attending an event that you aren't paying attention to because you're social networking.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 5:25:14 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

Sheesh, sometimes I grow weary of the excuses.  In this case, how stupid do you have to be to not understand that this is 2012 and that these games are in London.  

Wow, nobody figured out in advance that the volume of text traffic, twitter, and other messaging methods would be huge?  

Nobody did a back count on how many people were traveling to London (how many hotel rooms are taken, how many airline tickets sold, how many venue tickets sold...etc.) to understand that level of subscribers?  

I hear complaints about problems with timing of cycling due to too much cellular traffic.... wow.... they really trusted their own internal communications to the cellular networks?  really?  Don't they understand that no one with mission critical needs runs them over cellular.  The police don't.  The emergency services don't.  The fire departments don't.  The military doesn't.  They use dedicated networks where interference is managed and connectivity more certain.  

Didn't the organiziers and the local carriers know to put in a huge number of extra sites.... and EXTRA BACKHAUL?   Didn't they know what was coming?

Asking fans to stop text messaging?  Sheesh!  

I am sick of the complaints from carriers and excuses.  In my opinion the planning and deployment of communications networks was poorly done.  That is it period.

And NBC coverage?  don't even get me started.

I wish the carriers would simply "man up" and tell the truth and state the obvious: they did a poor job planning.  They tried to do the network for the olympics on the "cheep" and now it is biting them on the wazoo.   I would prefer if they just fessed up and told the truth, did a mea culpa and moved on.  Stop complaining about your subscribers!  it is NOT THE SUBSCRIBERS fault!  it was poor planning and poor deployment  plain and simple.  

Not too different than how the London Olympics gave security to a private firm that later could not deliver so they had to rescue themselves by calling in the UK military to do security.  

looks like these planners outsourced too much and didn't do detailed engineering planning (detailed to the level that was really needed).  I am tired of the whining sound coming from carriers.  They caused this issue themselves.  


sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:25:13 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

And, stop ruining it for us Americans who don't get to watch until after work! I bet at the next Olympics, the athletes texting during events will be the real problem...

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:25:13 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

I got so many pitches beforehand about how the operators are beefing up their networks...er, maybe they were about how they should be. These events always bring out the issues.

^Eagle^ 12/5/2012 | 5:25:12 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top


Interesting Allot stats.  As a person who used to be involved in cell planning, I would have made darn sure if I had done this network, that it was able to handle a 400% - 500% data traffic growth (OTT) and same for txt.   This level of accelerated traffic is not surprising at all.  In fact, I think it is rather modest in some ways.  Certainly within the realm of what they should have easily anticipated.   

If they are choking on 182% text growth, then it is abundantly clear that they did not do their homework.

Clear the operators are still using planners that come from the voice days and still do not fully get the shift to OTT, Data and text.

This is completely on the operators and the olympic planning committees.  It is really distastful that they are attacking customers for "using too much"...  This is not a public "commons" issue where free services are provided.  This is a for profit business which needs to serve the customer and drive revenue.

also quite a shame as it means that the carriers are missing revenue that they could achieve.  Considering the carriers are all in some degree of financial need, leving money on the table (if customers could send more text... that is more revenue) seems quite short sighted.


Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:25:12 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

In light of all these issues, there's an entertaining roundup of statements from U.K. mobile operators about their preparations for London 2012... millions in investment, network upgrades, etc... Here's the link from paidContent:


sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:25:12 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

Looks like Olympic viewers are doing both texting and OTT apps. According to Allot's stats, IM increased 182% during the opening ceremony. WhatsApp, in particular, grew 430%.

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 5:25:11 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

For what its worth, I'm streaming the Cycling Time Trial to my phone over Vodafone 3G as I type. Live video is mostly smooth with the odd bit of buffering. My stream has been up for 20-odd minutes. The BBC has a pretty good app.

This is in central London for what is probably a fairly popular event, since there's a British medal hope. Not bad, I'd say.

EDIT 1: Quite a bit of buffering now. Watchable, but getting a bit annoying.

EDIT 2: Spoke (geddit?) too soon. Video keeps freezing.

EDIT 3: The video stream broke. But Wiggins won. So yay.

opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 5:25:10 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

Olympic officials must not understand networking. You can handle texting with a 300 baud modem. What would tie up the network is people checking websites or even streaming video.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 5:25:09 PM
re: Texts Are Too Over the Top

Sailboat, you are spot on. Why there wasn't a portable Wi-Fi network set up at the cycling event is beyond comprehension. Especially in a loop race, there is so much fan "downtime" -- since you sit in one place and wait for the riders to come by each loop -- that big mobile device usage is a given.

I tried asking the Cisco folks why this wasn't done, and they said they couldn't comment, and pointed inquires back toward the Games organizers. Who since they couldn't see this coming in the first place probably aren't worth talking to now.

I would say it's a huge missed opportunity that could have been turned into a positive -- why not have a portable Wi-Fi network with lots of digital screens showing action from other parts of the course? Or an app like Tour Tracker available, all sponsored by some soft drink or beer company? Are the marketers and network people really on different planets?

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