Yesterday, the net was full with reports about the London Olympics 2012 organizers banning the use of 3G-Wifi Access point functionality of modern smartphones in Olympic areas. What I found interesting on the reporting side is that only few news agency actually wondered why this ban was in place and only some speculated that this might have security reasons, or, what seems more likely to me, commercial reasons as one British network operator has deployed Wi-Fi hotspots on Olympic venues and wants to monetize the service. Non of the news agencies actually tried to get an official statement. Why not?
So in case it was commercial reasons, I wonder if 3G/Wi-Fi bridges for non commercial reasons, i.e. me connecting my friends can actually be forbidden by the organizers? The 2.4 GHz band used for Wi-Fi is an open band accessible freely for everyone. The Olympic organizers don't have a monopoly on the band so how can they possibly forbid any sort of legal use? I'd really like to know if there is a legal basis for this!? Anyone!?
But apart from that I wonder if they have even remotely thought about how to enforce this!? This seems like a hilarious joke and I wonder if this ban will actually make people start thinking about sharing their 3G connectivity with others rather than having the desired effect.
5 thoughts on “Can You Really Forbid 3G to Wi-Fi Bridges At The Olympics?”
Very interesting questions for which I unfortunately have no answer. I’d also be very interested in whether one WiFi ‘operator’ can legally prevent others from using WiFi – it’s not licensed spectrum after all.
Imagine the user experience when hundreds (if not thousands) of WiFi hotspots are all active in a small area.
I can imagine that a plausible motivation for BT trying to prevent ‘unauthorized’ hotspots would be simply to ensure that the BT WiFi service is usable – not to enable BT to monetize the service, but to enable any acceptable service to be provided at all.
The key advantage of WiFi is also its Achilles heel – anyone can use the spectrum and there’s nothing beyond the ‘in-built’ mechanisms to prevent interference.
The UK regulator, Ofcom has made their Olympic spectrum plan information available at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/spectrum/olympics/
Maybe there is something hidden there that is relevant.
In anycase, you don’t need a legal limitation relating to sectrum usage to limit the use of WiFi – the organiser of any event can stipulate any conditions that he wants (with in reason) – if you chose to accept those condition when you buy a ticket you are contractually obliged to comply with the conditions set out by the organiser.
From this ofcom document http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/london2012/statement/statement.pdf it appears that they are concerned about interference…
WiFi is being used to provide several critical services and the public use might interfere.
The regulation “The Wireless Telegraphy (Control of Interference from Apparatus) (The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Regulations 2012
” (at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/1519/made )
suggests that even if the “apparatus” operates normally with in existing regulations, this order still makes it illegal to use if it does interfere with public safty purposes.
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