Tencent, an internet giant that has some 950 people working on providing London 2012 Olympics coverage online to hundreds of millions of viewers in China, has slammed the mobile broadband infrastructure in London, which it claims have hindered its ability to upload content on the fly.
At the end of last year Tencent had over 700 million users of its online platforms, some of which include QQ.com, QQ Games, Qzone, SoSo, PaiPai and Tenpay. These sites provide various tools to the Chinese public, including communication, social media, entertainment and e-commerce.
Tencent’s London 2012 Olympic project team is made up of a task force of more than 150 people in London and 800 people in Beijing, where it has created a virtual information hub that is supported by two media studios in London.
It is currently providing three major programmers from London for its sites, which include interviews with athletes and winners at the Games, and is sending 180 minutes of video coverage a day back to China. It has also published more than 500 articles.
However, QQ.com Vice Chief Editor Wang Yongzhi said that Tencent hasn’t been impressed with the ability to upload content, either via 3G or Wi-Fi, during the Games.
“In terms of technological pain points, our major challenge in London is when we are trying to send some information from our mobile handsets to China. We have experienced some difficulties with the local internet environment,” Wang said.
“China’s mobile internet environment is better than the UK, it’s a little bit delayed here. Also, you don’t have as good a Wi-Fi environment as we do in China, and that’s the major challenge for us in sending content back.”
He said that the internet access “is not as good as he expected”, which has meant that Tencent isn’t able to send content directly from Olympic venues to China, but instead it has to route the content via its head office in London and then resubmit it to China.
Wang added: “We had hoped that the network would cope better.”
There has been an ongoing debate about the state of the mobile broadband infrastructure in the UK, where communications regulator Ofcom has delayed the auction of 4G spectrum a number of times due to conflicting interests among the UK’s mobile operators.
It was revealed in July that the auction process will now begin at the end of 2012, but won’t be completed until sometime in 2013. A number of organisations, including mobile operator Everything Everywhere, have spoken out about the need to roll out 4G networks as quickly as possible in the UK, as it is falling behind its international peers, many of which already have commercial 4G offerings.
With regard to Wi-Fi availability, BT is the main provider at the Olympic park and across London. It has installed a network that covers nine of the Olympic venues, including the stadium, the aquatics centre and the velodrome, and has completed work on 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the capital too.
Stephen Hartley, practice leader of telco strategy at analyst firm Ovum said that the UK is probably on a par with China when it comes to 3G speeds and coverage, but is falling behind with regards to readily available, free Wi-Fi.
“When it comes to China it really depends on where you are talking about. Is it better? Like anything with mobile, it depends on exactly where you are and how many people there are at the time. If everybody is trying to send something over 3G at the Olympic park then it could well be congested, although it’s a Greenfield site so I wouldn’t expect it to be bad,” said Hartley.
“When talking about cellular networks, certainly when you compare the sorts of network performance from places such as Germany or Sweden, and you compare that with the UK, we haven’t seen the same level of investment. They have much better performance, irrespective of 4G. With that increase in speed, comes a fatter pipe, so you get less congestion in the first place.”
He added: “Compared to China, I would say that we are on a par with their 3G performance. However, if we are talking about Wi-Fi I would say they are better. In China they have fairly thorough, deep, free Wi-Fi networks running through the cities – something we don’t have in the UK. Public access to freely available Wi-Fi just isn’t something that you get.”