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Oktoberfest 2012: This year's visitors even thirstier for beer - and mobile data

Germany's Oktoberfest, the most well-known festival centred around Bavarian beer, food and music, came to a close on Sunday. Official statistics show fewer visitors than the year before, but those who visited the festival drank nearly as much - and used more than double the bandwidth compared to last year.
By Moritz Jaeger, Contributor on

This year's Oktoberfest — the annual celebration of beer, food and live music held in the German city of Munich - came to an end on Sunday.

While there have been fewer visitors this year (6.4 million compared to 6.9 million in 2011) those who went to the famous festival nearly consumed as much beer as in the years before. Official sources report that over the 16 days of the spectacle, a total of 6.9 million litres (called Maß in German) of beer were sold to thirsty customers.

Not only did this year's Oktoberfest — the 179th — put a strain on the local beer reserves, it also put pressure on the area's mobile networks as well.

According to a spokesman for Germany's biggest telco Deutsche Telekom, there was considerably more traffic over its networks during the 16-day long festival compared to average consumption in Munich. "We served more than a terabyte of additional mobile data during the Oktoberfest," a spokesman told ZDNet. "The growth is especially driven by smartphones and applications like Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp."

It wasn't just food and beer visitors consumed — they also used more than a terabyte of mobile bandwith. Image: A Mueller, Munich Tourism

The amount of GSM-based voice calls is also impressive. Deutsche Telekom alone handled around half a million calls for each of the three weekends during the festival, while users sent around 300,000 text messages. "The additional infrastructure [needed for Oktoberfest] could easily cover the demands of a small city," the spokesman added.

Germany's four main mobile operators — Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, O2, E-Plus and Vodafone - worked together to cope with the massive swell in user numbers during the two-week long event.

Deutsche Telekom put up eight new masts, allowing mobile operators to ensure coverage for the entire area. They also set up the network infrastructure for emergency services, ATMs and cash registers during the event. In addition to the mobile base stations, technicians lay 20 kilometres of copper cable to connect the around 450 endpoints that use landlines, ISDN or broadband.

But the influx of Oktoberfest had another impact on the mobile world: the festival's lost property office listed more than 4,500 lost items — of which 480 were mobile phones, and five were laptops. But for a handful of visitors, there were more unfortunate losses than some mobile hardware — the lost property offices also registered two lost wedding rings and a dog. The dog, at least, has been returned to its rightful owner.

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