Beijing's Olympic success spurs 3G vision

When athletes from around the world start arriving at Beijing's Capital Airport to take part in the 2008 Olympic Games, they will automatically register their arrival with Olympic officials by turning on 3G (third-generation) cell phones. That is part of a 3G vision for the 2008 games recently laid out by executives at Beijing Mobile Communication Co. Ltd. (BMCC), a subsidiary of the country's dominant cellular operator, China Mobile Communication Co. Ltd.

Winning the right to host the Olympic Games has been a source of great pride among the Chinese, and many Beijing residents look forward to the benefits of infrastructure spending for the games. Organisers in Beijing plan to spend around US$33.7 billion over the next seven years to reduce pollution and improve infrastructure in the city for the games. Included in the sum are $3.6 billion the organisers plan to spend on expanding and upgrading Beijing's high-tech infrastructure.

Inevitably, some of that money will get funnelled into the city's growing mobile-phone networks.

BMCC, which operates one of China's largest GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) networks, hopes to offer an array of 3G-based services for athletes and visitors at the Olympic Games, said BMCC Deputy General Manager Sha Yuejia, in a report on the Web site of the official People's Daily newspaper. By 2008, BMCC's IP (Internet Protocol) based 3G network will have completely replaced the existing circuit-switched system, Sha said in the report.

Among the services BMCC has planned for the 2008 Olympics, athletes and staff will have access to event-related information, with organizers able to customize the type of information available to individual users. Visitors will be able to order tickets for Olympic events and watch live video coverage of the games using 3G handsets. They will also be able to access information on restaurants, shopping and sightseeing, the report said.

BMCC's plans seem reasonable, according to one analyst.

"I really don't see any difficulty to roll out these services (in time for the Olympics) in Beijing," said Rachel Lo, a senior telecommunication analyst at International Data Corp., noting that the games are more than six years away.

BMCC isn't the only company looking to make a splash with 3G technology at a global sporting event. South Korean carriers have plans to launch their 3G services in May 2002, a time picked to coincide with the opening of the 2002 World Cup soccer tournament, which South Korea is jointly hosting with Japan. However, concerns over handset availability, network stability and licensing problems could delay the launch. If that happens, SK IMT Co., the 3G affiliate of South Korean wireless carrier SK Telecom Co. Ltd., still hopes to offer World Cup visitors and media access to its trial 3G services.

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