It's great news for pizza makers, and terrible news for network managers, but what does the World Cup portend for telcos?

Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe

June 10, 2010

3 Min Read

It only happens once every four years, and perhaps it's just as well.

The World Cup, as even the most ardent soccer-hater could tell you, is virtually upon us -- and don't we know it.

Venture into any UK supermarket right now and you will find whole shopping aisles devoted to the event, piled high with what is deemed appropriate World Cup nourishment -- pizza, beer, chips, and other health foods.

Middle managers across the globe can't sleep at night as they anticipate the likely mass absenteeism as workers "throw a sickie" rather than miss the big game. And annoying little plastic flags flutter from the windows of every other car in nations that have qualified.

Even Light Reading has caught the bug, running quite long articles, reader polls, and extensive videos devoted to the beautiful game's quadrennial jamboree! (See Reader Poll: Who Will Win the World Cup?.)


Partly manufactured or not, World Cup fever has arrived.

And the telecom industry will feel the side effects. For example, a new report from Pyramid Research -- "Mobile TV and the 2010 FIFA World Cup: Scoring Big in Western Europe" -- reveals that the World Cup will massively boost the uptake of mobile video and mobile TV services in Western Europe. (See Mobile TV Scores with World Cup.)

According to the report's author Stela Bokun (who is supporting her home nation of Serbia in the tournament), the number of mobile video users (including mobile TV) in Western Europe will increase by 8.4 million in 2010, thanks in no small part to the World Cup action being followed on the move in England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark, all of which have qualified.

In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which has only three teams at the party (Slovakia, Slovenia, and Serbia), the World Cup effect will be less pronounced, predicts Bokun, with 1.5 million additional mobile video users coming on stream.

But, as the report points out, there are other factors at play here, such as the generally lower levels of disposable income in CEE countries, and the shorter commuting times there. (The daily commute has proven to be prime mobile video viewing time.)

That the World Cup will likely drive additional use of soccer-related mobile video content in Europe is backed by recent data from digital marketing consultancy comScore Inc. . It found that the number of mobile users in Spain accessing sports content on their phones each month had risen by 85 percent in the past year to 3.15 million, and by 41 percent to 6.85 million in the UK.

Analysis by comScore found that live sporting events, particularly soccer games, are a "significant driver of mobile sports content consumption."

A less positive World Cup angle is provided by network management firm Ipswitch Inc. , which today revealed results from a survey of IT managers.

It asked them by how much they thought bandwidth use on their corporate networks would increase during the event as staff stop working and watch video streams of the big games. The results, which were gleaned from more than 1,000 respondents, could be seen as alarming: In participating World Cup nations, local area network bandwidth use is expected to increase by 38.85 percent to an average of 86.89 percent during matches.

In host nation South Africa, they might as well all give up and go home, as IT managers there are bracing themselves for the network bandwidth use to hit 100 percent at crucial times.

Even in the US (where many mistakenly believe football is a game played by men in helmets using a misshapen ball), bandwidth use is expected to rise to more than 80 percent during some key matches. (See Ipswitch Warns of World Cup Congestion.)

Better get the beers in. Make mine a San Miguel, though. (See Spain Leads LR World Cup Poll.)

— Paul Rainford, freelance editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Paul Rainford

Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

Paul is based on the Isle of Wight, a rocky outcrop off the English coast that is home only to a colony of technology journalists and several thousand puffins.

He has worked as a writer and copy editor since the age of William Caxton, covering the design industry, D-list celebs, tourism and much, much more.

During the noughties Paul took time out from his page proofs and marker pens to run a small hotel with his other half in the wilds of Exmoor. There he developed a range of skills including carrying cooked breakfasts, lying to unwanted guests and stopping leaks with old towels.

Now back, slightly befuddled, in the world of online journalism, Paul is thoroughly engaged with the modern world, regularly firing up his VHS video recorder and accidentally sending text messages to strangers using a chipped Nokia feature phone.

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