SAN FRANCISCO — With the World Cup well underway, soccer fans and telecom companies are testing 4G infrastructure mandated by the Brazilian government to handle massive user increases. Officials are optimistic about the strength of wireless networks and, despite delays, are moving forward with LTE rollout.
“Operators have invested heavily and, in their mind, are ready for the games,” says Chris Pearson, president of the 4G Americas trade group. “It’s not an easy task being ready for what is considered the largest sporting event in the world.”
In preparation for the games -- which began June 12 and will be held in 12 stadiums around the country -- regulating telecom agency Anatel mandated that host cities with more than 500,000 people must support universal 4G coverage by May 31, 2014. Telecom operators have since installed 164 miles of fiber in the stadiums, 3,700 antennas for 2G, 3G, and 4G access, and 1,014 WiFi antennas, at a cost of US$226 million.
Due to construction delays, six of the stadiums won’t have WiFi, which was seen as key to offloading mobile data usage on traditional networks. Storage vendor NetApp estimated that the final match may generate 12.6 terabytes of traffic.
“We know everyone in those stadiums… is going to want to share the moment and send the moment, which increases the congestion on that network,” Pearson says. “Operators are using pretty much every tool in the toolkit. They’re using the antennas, they’re using some [distributed antenna systems], and small cells.”
According to telecom union SindiTelebrasil, attendees at the opening game in São Paulo, which also experienced construction delays, had 135,000 cellphone calls and more than 1 million data communications with an average size of 0.55 MBytes. The largest volume of data traffic was concentrated in 3G, “which had traffic spikes and momentary congestion.” 3G use was highest between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., with Internet connections peaking shortly before and during the opening ceremony.
“The 4G technology also showed a significant use,” the SindiTelebrasil report stated. “During this period of [1 to 8 p.m.], 285,000 data communications were made by 4G networks, which represented 26% of total data traffic."