It might be known as the race that stops a nation, but the Melbourne Cup has also become the race that clogs all mobile networks.
As soon as the horses finish their 3.2-kilometre sprint on Tuesday afternoon, about 100,000 punters are likely to grab their phone to tap out a text message, make a phone call, post a photo online or check their winnings through a betting app.
Mobile carriers have been preparing for Cup day by adding extra mobile base stations around Flemington racecourse and fine-tuning their networks. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone said they all expected network demands to be higher this year.
But this is also the first year when all three have 4G coverage around the racetrack. This technology can handle data traffic more efficiently than previous generations of mobile data and eases congestion on the 3G network.
And the Victorian Racing Club provides free Wi-Fi for visitors, which can also be used for voice calls over the internet via apps such as Viber, Skype and Apple’s FaceTime if mobile networks get too congested.
The VRC lets telcos install as much infrastructure around Flemington as they want, to ensure things run smoothly during racing season, a spokesman said.
It has spent $1.4 million installing its own 800 megabit per second (Mbps) Wi-Fi network around buildings at the racecourse . But this network has not yet been extended to the track-side lawn areas.
In the exclusive BirdCage area, Emirates will provide free Wi-Fi , but only for those invited into its marquee.
A Telstra spokesman said it had ‘‘ very good 4G coverage and capacity across the racecourse area’ ’ and had increased its mobile towers in the area.
‘‘ We concentrated our efforts on the crowded areas in front of the grandstands, as well as ensuring in-building areas and other areas where racegoers congregate are all well covered,’’ he said.
Telstra had optimised its network to ‘‘ maximise the datacarrying capacity’ ’ and maintain voice services.
‘‘ We expect that there may be some times when data speeds will slow due to high peak demand . . . we expect that 4G services will cope well with the expected high demand for wireless data at Flemington .’’
A spokeswoman for Optus said it had a ‘‘ solid network experience’ ’ at last year’s Cup but expected demand for data to be even higher this year. Its new 4G and 4G+ networks have been rolled out to Flemington and it has also upgraded mobile network hardware.
A Vodafone spokeswoman said its network ‘‘ did see some congestion last year following the main race, although this was not unexpected due to the numbers of customers down at the track and sending messages at that time’’ .
It has added two new 3G mobile towers and two 4G towers around the racecourse and sent a temporary cell to Flemington for extra capacity.
Tips for getting a call through:
- Try reverting to another generation network, which might be less clogged. Access the 2G network by disabling 3G on your mobile phone’s settings, or the 3G network by disabling 4G.
- If you have access to Wi-Fi , try placing a voice-over-internet call by using Apple’s FaceTime feature or apps like Skype, Viber and WhatsApp. The person you are calling needs to have these apps installed too.
Source: Lucy Battersby | TheAge