Ina Fried

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Britain Adds More Spectrum to Deal With Olympics-Related Wireless Crunch

Predicting massive demand related to the upcoming London Olympics, British regulators said Monday they are massively boosting available spectrum for the Games.

The crunch will come from a variety of corners, from wireless cameras for filming close-ups, walkie-talkies for coordinating volunteers and, of course, millions of spectators looking to upload their photos and videos to gloat to non-ticket-holding relatives.

“The event presents a unique logistical challenge never faced before by the U.K., with a need to assign up to 20,000 wireless frequencies to be used for the Games in London, more than double the number usually assigned in a year,” Britain’s Ofcom said in a statement.

Ofcom, the agency responsible for managing the British airwaves, said it has been working for six years on a plan. To get the needed spectrum, Ofcom says it will temporarily borrow some spectrum held by the government, use some frequencies made available by the digital-TV switchover, and offer up airwaves that are in the process of being auctioned off but not yet in use. Unlicensed spectrum will also be tapped, it said.

To handle all these airwaves and avoid interference, Ofcom said it has built a state-of-the art airwave management system, and has also been doing tests during high-profile events, such as last year’s royal wedding.

A final test will come at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in early June, with the Games themselves starting July 27.

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

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik