If You Go To The Olympics, You Can Bring Your iPhone Or Android Phone… But You Better Not Tether

from the wireless-police? dept

Among the latest bizarre limitations that the Olympics puts on people is a ban on any sort of private WiFi network via your mobile connection. That is, you’re not allowed to tether your phone, turn it into a WiFi hotspot or use a device like a MiFi to create the same effect:

A first for any Olympic Games is the ban on personal or private wireless access points and 3G hubs, which are not allowed at London Olympics events and venues.

iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets are permitted inside venues, but must not be used as wireless access points to connect multiple devices.

It’s possible (or perhaps likely) that this is done to help local mobile operators from having their networks overburdened, but, really, you’d think that the mobile operators would be out in droves with those “cells on wheels” (COW) vehicles that provide significantly more cellular power at high traffic events. Still, I’m curious as to how anyone enforces such a ban. It’s pretty easy to hide a MiFi. And turning your phone into a hotspot and slipping it back into a pocket would make it almost impossible to detect. The whole ban just seems pointless.

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Comments on “If You Go To The Olympics, You Can Bring Your iPhone Or Android Phone… But You Better Not Tether”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even if they did intercept a plot to do that (yes, it can be done), that does not mean that they get to ban these devices period.

Why MitM the WIFI when you can MitM the GSM signal and cut out the middleman? GSM is not exactly safe, and I’d be willing to bet (since I have some experience with GSM) that in some cases it is easier to mess with GSM than it is to mess with WPA2 WIFI.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

Re: Whut

The reason is that this “law/rule/whatever” is NOT meant to be enforced, but to be there in the grab bag of “we don’t like what you are doing, so we can kick you out/arrest you because of….”

This is how laws that seem “silly” work, they aren’t meant to be enforced _unless_ you piss off a police officer, or a person who can call a police officer.

So this rule won’t be enforced… unless NBC thinks you are recording video and streaming it online. And then they will say you are tethering to your camera… or w/e.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Broadcasters, the cells on wheels stuff and a host of others take a large bite out of the 2.5 gig range at events like this anyway so I’m not buying it.

The range got noisy in Vancouver but not unusably so. Adaptive filters are wonderful things.

It wasn’t in the rules in Vancouver to say no tethering so at some of the more popular events and sites people did without interfering with the event(s).

They did cause a minor problem in that the operator of this “hotspot” often missed half the event they came to see.

That and that some of the buildings aren’t suitable for antennas in the 2.5 gig range particularly those with more powerful attennas in place operating on a harmonic bandwidth and built with grounded rebar.

Like many other things Olympic I suspect that this has more to do with some silly notion of trade mark protection and protection of the “world class” sponsors such as Coke.

The other tethering that happened in Vancouver was from news gathering operations who could and sometimes did seem to be in numbers there resembling an invading army.

I can’t imagine the IOC trying to stop that but then the IOC is so corrupt and divorced from reality that they probably still think we use the old clunky rotary dial phones tied to a land line. 🙂

Scratch the surface of this and you’ll catch the not to wafting scent of Genuine IOC topsoil made from the bodies and output of IOC members who died in office or only seem to be dead now.


The athletes dominated the Vancouver Winter Games, it was thier show through and through. The IOC simply raked in the cash on the backs of the athetes as they always have.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re:

I can imagine a stand full of people with several hundred of them all tossing out wifi would cause that 2.5ghz range to get mighty noisy.

Meh… actually it’s more the other way round… WiFi and bluetooth performance, being relatively low power, tends to suck badly in an environment with loads of RF noise like that.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Then it has to be concern for all those people whose hair turns purple if they stand in front of their smart meter for a few seconds while they cut the lawn and there’s irrefutable evidence in DNA damage.

Then they go sit in their office with their N Wifi router and antennas on every computer in there and it’s the fountain of youth. Sadly their sperm count quadruples and shimmers with health and life.

The Darwin Awards in reverse.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Doesn’t matter if it is or not. Bottom line is that if the devices are not illegal, the Olympics do NOT (even if it is private property) have the right to keep people from using legal devices.

It would be like saying that someone has to use an iPhone when their Android phone is just as good and works just as well.

Brent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I agree with the other person who replied to your comment. As i learned mostly from this site, the Olympic Committee apparently has enough power (money) to get laws passed in countries that would otherwise be ‘unconstitutional’ (or whatever the British have in this case). For example, the Olympic IP Police were allowed to go around London, search businesses, and look for any non-sanctioned merchandise with the Olympic logo. That is not normally legal.
SO, its possible that the IOC did make it illegal to use these devices and, if they chose to do so, could make it mandatory that you only use iPhones inside the venue.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: Thank you!!!

“It’s possible (or perhaps likely) that this is done to help local mobile operators from having their networks overburdened…”

No, it’s NOT likely, possible, or even probable.

Thanks guys. I can’t believe Mike missed that. He made me laugh when he came up with the network congestion excuse. The ban is a pure and simple money grab for official sponsors, like everything else associated with the Olympics.

Personally I think the public will eventually get fed up with organizations telling them not to do what their devices are designed to do. No mifi, no twitpics, no facebook updates, no YouTube uploads. How about no more IOC bullshit?

Anonymous Coward says:

Remember kids: don’t remember your experience at the _______ Games because those uncle fuckers will charge you with copyright infringement. And don’t tell any of your friends about your experience if you do remember because that’s contributory infringement, punishable by mandatory brand respect re-education. And don’t bring anything to record your experience at the games or you’ll be pooping police truncheons for a week!

Tunnen (profile) says:

They are trying to claim this Olympics as the first social media Olympics (Conveniently forgetting that the Vancouver games were) but at the same time trying to limit how social media connects to the web?

Also, I don’t see how they think the ban will work. I’m assuming this is to try to prevent excessive interference in the 2.5 Ghz range that might caused issues with in-house wireless networks used by event staff. But, if that was the reasoning, they should have had enough foresight to either setup their network on the lesser used 5 Ghz band (which most cellphones don’t support) or other communication technology altogether.

In the end, people will still do it and will likely not get caught. If they do get caught, the worse I can see the staff doing is asking the person to leave the premises.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And you are right, about all they could do is ask the person to leave the premises, as long as they are not making any money off what they are doing. This is part of the reason they are pushing for things like Commercial Felony Streaming Act, SOPA, ACTA, TPP, CETA, etc, etc, to criminalise such actions.

But then there is, of course, the problem of tethering, where you connect your computer, of whatever device you have, directly into your phone’s USB input. Some mobile companies will let you do this for an extra monthly fee with apps like TetherNow. I don’t see how they are going to catch someone using TetherNow on their mobiles, since the connection is hard wired and does not use WiFi.

TetherNow might be an option if you go to the Games, but check with your mobile provider to see whether or not they requuire to pay an extra fee to connect any device to your phone’s USB port using TetherNow.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Well they could....

It’s pretty easy to hide a MiFi. And turning your phone into a hotspot and slipping it back into a pocket would make it almost impossible to detect.

Well yes and no… depending on the venue wifi, you can detect the signal and localise it (tho probably not pinpoint it’s true). And what they could do is have extra access points set to supress “rogue” signals…. that’s legal in private venues, but far as I know not in public spaces, but hey, when have the olympics ever let that stop them?

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Just follow the money!

I think it’s a pretty good bet that some wireless vendor has placed access points all over the venues, and will be happy to charge you a (probably sizable) fee to access them. Also, it would be a good bet that they will have packet inspection software installed to keep you from posting your photos and videos of the games on the net.

Anonymous Coward says:

Large scale wifi

I guess they will have a large-scale wifi deployment in these locations. Large-scale wifi on a busy venue is a pain in the ass to make it work, even without rogue access points screwing up the spectrum. Some conferences do forbid running your own access point for that reason, so there is precedent, and for once it is not yet another Olympic abuse.

And, as others have already pointed, they can turn on the rogue access point detection and suppression on their wireless controller. It works by attacking the rogue access point with forged packets which force the clients to disconnect and disrupt the rogue’s operation; unless your personal devices are using 802.11w protected management frames (not bloody likely), they will not have a working connection.

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