UK communications industry’s gold medal during London 2012

UK communications industry’s gold medal during London 2012

a personal view from Carolyn Kimber

Here we are, in the void between the Olympics and the Paralympics, so I thought it a good time to report back on my various perceptions of the ICT successes so far.  As you have heard me say before, our strength in ICT underpins just about everything else of value to UK plc and we certainly showed this to the world during the Games.

If I was awarding medals there would have to be a large number of categories to cover all the gold medal winners.  Here are just a few.

For telecoms infrastructure provider, it’s ‘hats off’ to BT.  When you consider the number of venues that had to be connected and supported – some of them already in existence, some on brown field sites and others, such as Wimbledon and Lords, that were in use for their own activities only two weeks before – you begin to understand the enormity of the project.  Our good friend, Stuart Hill, ran a fantastic project and although I know he has said he’s enjoyed it so much he’d have done it for nothing, I really do hope that his efforts get recognized.

For the actual Games coverage I don’t think anyone could fault the BBC.  Wherever you were and whatever device you were using the BBC was geared up to deliver whichever event you wanted to watch.  The supply of information over the internet was staggering with a page for every athlete that took part, for every heat, for every final and for every medal ceremony.  Interestingly enough “Aunty” [Editor’s note: an ‘endearing’ British name for the BBC] didn’t win the bid for the Paralympics so I look forward to seeing Channel 4’s efforts shortly.

Whilst, technically speaking, mobile comes under the auspices of BT I’ve made a rule that no one can win two gold medals in my games so that has to go to the mobile industry as a whole.  Now you all know I’m often critical of this sector of our industry – especially when I can’t get a signal where I want it – but on this occasion I have to give credit where credit is due.  The way they co-operated to give coverage where it was needed can only be praised.  Mind you they might have shot themselves in the foot when Ofcom [the British telecoms regulator] starts looking at national roaming in the future – only time will tell. I was fortunate to have firsthand experience in the Olympic Stadium and again, was very impressed at the way a well-known MNO (mobile network operator) used the experience gained from their Twickenham test bed to provide me with a signal when I needed it.  Excellent service!

Cisco also earn gold for all the ICT equipment that kept working – and is still working as I write  I was lucky enough to visit Cisco House in Westfield and experience their futuristic demonstration of where technology will be taking us over time narrated by Stephen Fry.  Exciting stuff, albeit a little scary at times!

Of course, at the moment, we cannot acknowledge the myriad of subcontractors involved in helping the ‘big boys’ achieve such a great success, as we don’t know how they are – yet.  Once LOCOG (the London Olympics organizing committee) has disappeared into the ether and the restrictions are lifted at the end of the year I do hope we will have an opportunity to understand how these consortiums of innovation played their part for UK plc.  Because, at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about – showing other nations that despite the naysayers predicting all manner of disasters prior to London 2012, we did a jolly good job and are happy to help others put on the show of their lives too.

That brings me to my final gold medal today – and that’s to UK Trade & Investment.  Most of you are well aware of my involvement as Olympic Champion for the ICT Sector since the autumn of 2008 which has brought about a number of presentations at CMA events in the last couple of years.  The ICT programme of activities to maximise the financial legacy for UK plc is continuing but the highlight for me so far took place over 2nd and 3rd of August during the Games.

First of all was an experience at the BBC HQ, of Super HD – a joint project between BBC and NHK of Japan.  If you thought that your HD TV is pretty good quality, you ain’t seen nothing yet. During the demonstration we were show a video of people walking around a large square in HD which was great until they zoomed in.  Then the figures became blurred and features were indistinct.  Now imagine what that was like when you improve it by sixteen times.  Yes, I did say sixteen.  You could almost spot a pimple on the end of someone’s nose.

And it’s not just the picture – it’s also the sound.  If you can consider that the average cinema audio is just over five channels then just imagine what it would be like with just over twenty two channels.  Add the two together and you can understand that when they showed us some of the footage from the opening ceremony it was as though you were there.  Unfortunately, as this is in the very early stages of development and the only three cameras in the world were on the Olympic Park, it’s not going to be coming to your lounge in the near future but it gives the couch potatoes amongst us something to look forward to.

On the 3rd August I attended the ICT day at the British Business Embassy in Lancaster House.  This historic building had been given over to UKTI for the duration of the games with the purpose of holding business summits across key sectors delivering the Olympics and had been kicked off by the Prime Minister holding an investment summit.  On our day we had over 400 delegates representing high level overseas investors and potential business partners/collaborators mixing with representatives of small, medium and large UK enterprises keen to do business.

We had a wide range of interest from many countries due to host large sporting events in the coming years but also those interested in improving their infrastructure, business models and processes by using our products and services thus benefiting from UK experience and innovation.  Obviously the financial benefit to UK plc won’t be overnight, but I am sure that all the effort put in by UKTI and ICT KTN will bear fruit in the coming years.

Carolyn Kimber

Past Chairman, CMA
UK Trade & Investment ICT Sector Olympic Champion
Parliamentary Internet and Communication Technology Forum (PICTFor) Member
.uk Stakeholder Committee Member, Nominet
Member, Women in Telecoms & Technology (WiTT)


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