Even though a 2-1 victory against France was not enough to see my home team through to the second round, I am loving the whole atmosphere, vibe and spectacle of the FIFA World Cup. Thanks to dual nationality, I am extremely happy to cheer on my ‘other home team’, England, and just now see them make it through to the next round!
One thing that has been performing well, according to reports, are the mobile networks. I even performed some tests at a match I attended in between blowing my vuvuzela. (An aside: to those who find vuvuzelas offensive or annoying … don’t knock it until you have tried it! There is something addictive to ‘answering the call of the hive’, something that appeals to the ‘primeval instincts’ deep inside!)
Despite the 65,000 people in the stadium, I had no problems exchanging a few SMS with the baby sitter, receiving a call from my father-in-law asking ‘are you there yet’ and even updating my Facebook status with ‘at Italy-Paraguay match’ to up my social network cred. That is certainly more than I have been able to do at midnight on just about any 1 January anywhere in the world! Of course, there may be many explanations for this—not least of all that most people were actually watching the football match rather than playing with their phones.
There are two, more likely explanations. Firstly, it is possible that foreign visitors are being cautious when using their mobiles while roaming for fear of receiving large bills on their return home. This issue of ‘bill shock’ is currently a hot topic as blogged about by my colleague here. But, this is probably not the entire reason though, as many visitors are likely to have activated their pre-paid SIMs distributed by MTN, along with international ticket sales, upon arrival.
Secondly, and more simply, it appears that the investment in additional capacity around potential congestion points, like stadiums and airports, has paid off. Of course, this investment is only half the story, as the backhaul and core network capacity also need to be upgraded to support this. So, while nobody gets embarrassed by the performance of these investments during the World Cup, the interesting question will be how can operators recoup this type of investment after the World Cup: price wars or service innovation to increase ARPUs?