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2012 Summer Olympics Internet video streaming is in the Limelight

The 2012 London Games requires the participation of multiple content delivery providers internationally in order to service intense demand for mobile and broadband video. Tempe, Arizona-based Limelight Networks is in the center of it.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

The 2012 Summer Games are now underway and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people are tuning in with their mobile and computing devices to watch live and recorded video streams of sporting events at London's various Olympic venues.

At the center of this incredible demand for viewing Olympics programming on mobile and desktop computing devices during this two week period is Tempe, AZ based Limelight Networks.

If the name sounds familiar, that's because the company was heavily involved in streaming Olympics programming during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijiing.

In 2008 Limelight was the sole video content delivery network provider for the Beijing Olympics -- it was joined by Akamai Technologies who provided the caching of static web material.

In 2008, over 70 million videos were watched over 800 million minutes of viewing, with an average of 27 minutes of viewing per video per session. There were 130,000 peak streams of Standard Definition 480i video per second with a total of 3.4 petabytes of video delivered.

All of this was done by Limelight in its 2 terabit network of globally replicated datacenters that were peer optical data connected to hundreds of ISPs around the world.

That may sound impressive -- and for the time, it was. But this is four years later, and there are now hundreds of millions more devices on the Internet than there were before, largely credited towards the rise of smartphones and tablets.

In 2010, for the Vancouver winter games, Limelight experienced a 600 percent increase mobile viewership over Beijing. If that doesn't boggle the mind, it should.

Because of the intense demand for mobile device video delivery and the different licensing rights to the content in different countries, multiple CDNs now need to be involved in the Olympics. Limelight is one of several that is involved with this process.

For the 2012 London Games, Limelight has been charged with Flash and HTTP delivery of video for several major European broadcasters and ISPs.

For North America, Limelight is specifically targeting mobile device delivery, whereas Google itself is taking on much of the North American demand for broadband video delivery.

Akamai, Limelight's direct competitor, is also doing quite a bit of heavy lifting for the 2012 Summer Games. Akamai is providing wide-scale support for major broadcasters around the world, which includes live and on-demand streaming, site acceleration, mobile performance services, security, and comprehensive media solutions.

As to what the exact demand for video at this Olympics will be is difficult to say. No event of this magnitude has ever had that many simultaneous streams. But if we take this year's UEFA EURO football championships as a benchmark, it could be massive.

Limelight has upgraded its network from 2 Terabits to approximately 7 terabits,  a more than three fold capacity increase since the 2008 Beiijing Games. At the 2012 UEFA EURO football matches, Limelight's network traffic peaked at more than 1 million simultaneous streams, sending 3.5 megabit 720p high-quality HD video to mobile and broadband viewers.

While the basic infrastructure to support the Olympics will be similar, there is the added complexity of different live venues being streamed simultaneously in addition to replays. Limelight told me in an interview that it will be difficult to determine just how many people are going to watch the games on their network, but it could very easily surpass the UEFA EURO event.

Are you watching Olympics events on your mobile devices in North America or in Europe? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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