The Sun has got his (O2) hat on

The sun has started shining, we’re dusting off our shorts, sunnies and suntan lotion and that can only mean one thing. Our network herd is gearing up for a summer of fun!

Every year our Network COWs (cells on wheels) are right in the middle of the action. Our COWs offer all the electronics and antennae needed to boost network capacity and coverage at major events. They’re part of a number of mobile and temporary network solutions we use to help our customers enjoy the special events they attend throughout the year, helping to boost capacity and coverage, often in very crowded settings and in many cases bringing 4G to O2 event-goers.

From Glastonbury to Wimbledon, Ascot to Aintree, the Network teams support a full calendar of over 300 special events across the year, but summer is definitely when they’re at their busiest. Every year we put additional capacity into the British F1 Grand Prix to make sure the 294,000 people who attend can keep connected throughout the event. As the proud sponsor of England Rugby, we take pride in helping our customers stay connected. In November 2014 we were the first operator to roll out in-stadium 4G at a rugby match. This gave 82,000 O2 4G customers their own performance boost! We were also the first network operator to provide a premiership football game with in-stadium 4G in Manchester City’s 47,000 capacity stadium.

Claire Venners, Special Networks Project Manager and the woman in charge of our Special Events support says: “Ensuring we bring coverage to special events is one thing we consistently do better than our competitors. We work really hard to forecast how much coverage and capacity our customers are likely to need at an event and then try to ensure we’ve got the right kit in place on the day. It’s probably the one occasion where customers aren’t necessarily expecting a great network experience, especially if there are large crowds, so when we can deliver it, it really gives us an opportunity to surprise and delight them.

Social Media has really caused an explosion in the amount of traffic we’re seeing at special events nowadays. And for most customers, tweeting a picture, snapchatting or facebooking a video is now an essential part of the whole event experience. In fact, how we watch an event has changed. During recent events, such as the London Marathon, Boat Race and the Grand National we saw a huge rise in data traffic (the Boat Race was up nearly 100% on last year!).

Claire explains: “At some sporting events customers may be stood at one point along the route waiting for the action to pass them, and at the same time, live streaming the television coverage to see the rest of the race. Or at a music festival they could be watching something on one stage and live streaming another artist in another part of the venue. All of which our COWs and Mobi-cells are helping them to do.”

And we aren’t standing still, we are constantly looking to innovate to satisfy the ever increasing customer demands on our network. Last year we were the first in Europe to successfully trial LTE capability over satellite and since then our teams have been developing how we could use that to provide a more rapid response capability. It’s early days, but bringing this kind of thinking to life would enable us to deliver enhanced service in exceptional events and help our customers in times of crisis, such as the recent fire in Holborn which affected several service providers.