One of China's biggest trials during the Beijing Olympics will be the use of its domestic 3G (third-generation) standard for over 18,000 Olympic staff members and journalists during the games. It's also a big test for Samsung, supplier of the handsets that will keep Olympic officials connected during the competition.
Samsung is the Olympic sponsor for wireless communications equipment, a role it began in 1998 and for which it is contracted for games through 2016.
TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) is China's domestic 3G standard. China Mobile is providing the service, which will be available in all of the Olympic cities except Hong Kong, including Shanghai, Qinhuangdao and Shenyang during the games. Commercial 3G service is still not available in China, and to date TD-SCDMA has seen only trials in various cities throughout the country.
"We are very confident we will provide stable TD-SCDMA service," having worked with the format since 2004, said S.S. Kim, Samsung's project manager for BOCOG, through an interpreter. Samsung developed its TD-SCDMA phones at its Beijing Samsung Technology center, in partnership with Chinese handset maker Datang Mobile.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) wanted all-wireless communications for its main personnel during the games, Kim said. That meant they wanted to carry one device that would allow them to communicate with other Olympic officials.
The handsets are also designed to access the Wireless Olympic Works (WOW), which will provide schedules, weather and results. It also gives access to OCM2008 (Olympic Communications Messaging 2008), an internal communications system used by Olympic officials. Samsung's devices will allow WOW access without having to switch between mobile handsets, walkie-talkies and PDAs (personal digital assistants). Samsung, along with Olympic integrator Atos Origin, developed WOW, which was first used at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and this time will be carried via China Mobile's 3G service.
WOW is designed to be easily maneuvered using a touchscreen and a stylus, with all information available in Chinese and English. During a demonstration, it showed information like current weather in Beijing, with forecasts available for other Olympic cities; medal charts, which of course were blank because no events had occurred yet; and schedules for each individual sport, located based on the sport's graphic symbol, showing competition date, time and venue. It can also be personalized with My WOW, allowing the user to specify their country of origin and sport and display relevant information on start-up.
OCM2008 offers Olympic officials, namely members of the IOC and various sports' Olympic committees, an integrated messaging system that allows them to send text messages, MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and e-mail via the BOCOG e-mail server. It allows group messaging, letting groups like judges, a particular sport's officials and others to communicate.
As a security feature, only Samsung devices can connect to WOW and OCM2008, Kim said. Also, only BOCOG e-mail is available on the devices; users would not be able to check e-mail from other accounts.
Samsung is employing four devices at the Olympics, three of which are also available in non-TD-SCDMA versions: the E848, billed as the world's thinnest slider-type phone; the SGH-F268, also a slider-type, with a 2.1-inch display; the SGH-L288, a candybar-type model with a 2.6-inch screen; and the SGH-i688, a slider-type that runs on Windows Mobile, which will be issued to 2,000 "VIPs" during the games, including Olympic officials, Kim said. The SGH-i688 is the one model that exists only in a TD-SCDMA edition right now. All four phones are 2G and 2.5G-network compatible; the SGH-i688 and the L288 can be used on the local 3G network.
PTT (Push To Talk) will also make its debut during the Olympics, and China Mobile is expected to begin offering the service to groups such as event organizers after the games.
Like many of his Olympic colleagues, Kim looks exceptionally calm, even with the games now less than a month away. "We were involved from the beginning," he said, attributing his relaxed state to experience. "If I'm not confident, I wouldn't be here."