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Olympics and technology transitions

The Tokyo Olympics marked the inflection point in the adoption of color television. Will the London Olympics of 2012 be remembered as the inflection point for hybrid wireless networks?

The service, which was used by a half million people during the Olympics, was initially free to all consumers. Starting this month, it has been available for a fee to other mobile users.

Virgin plans to lease its Wi-Fi underground network to competitors. Discussions with rivals are already under way, said Emma Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for Virgin Media in London.

The Cloud, a company that operates 11,000 public hot spots in Britain, most of them for free, offered free Wi-Fi on trains and in parts of greater London during the Games. Vince Russell, the managing director of The Cloud, which is owned by BskyB, the British satellite broadcaster, said next-generation cell networks cannot keep pace with rising mobile data traffic. “What you are seeing is a growth in hybrid networks, where you have cellular combined with Wi-Fi,” Mr. Russell said.

Of course, the question of revenue streams has to be answered. Giving it away free is okay for the Olympics, but can it be sustainable?

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