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Akamai Anticipates Big Spike In World Cup Streaming

More devices and enhanced connectivity and speed should coalesce to provide a significant uptick in streaming of the 2014 World Cup from Brazil.

So says Kurt Michel, director, product marketing, media and delivery solutions, at Akamai Technologies, which is working with more than 50 clients/rights-holders that are streaming the tournament. Michel pointed to the increased number of smartphones and tablets, plus improved connectivity and speed, for what he anticipates will be major jumps in traffic and consumption during FIFA’s famed futbol tourney, which kicks off in Sao Paolo on June 12.

Back in 2010,IDC estimated that 302.6 million smartphones and 18 million tablets were shipped. Indeed, the latter was in its infancy, with the iPad bowing at that time. For 2014, IDC’s global forecasts dwarf  the previous projections: 1.2 billion smartphones and 270.5 million tablets are expected to be shipped over the course of this year. Combined with prior-year purchases, many people are armed with devices that can put the tourney in play as they are on the move.

“The proliferation of mobile devices is going to allow many more people to get involved with streaming the World Cup,” Michel said.

Michel also cited amelioration relative to speed as another reason why streaming will surge from South America. According to Akamai's "State of the Internet" data, the average peak connection speed in South Africa during the second quarter of 2010 was 3.25 Mbps, while that rate jumped to 9.06 Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2013.  In Brazil, the average peak connection speed during the 2010 World Cup was 5.64 Mbps, versus 20.4 Mbps in the host nation in the final quarter of last year.

Globally, Akamai's Internet data put the peak connection speed at 23.2 Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 6.8 Mbps during the second quarter of 2010.

“That greatly reduces the spinning wheel of death,” said Michel, who is also informing his optimistic streaming views on jumps from the globe’s other major sporting event: the Olympics.

He said that there was 50% increase in the bit rate to an average of 1.8 for the Sochi Winter Games last February, compared with a 1.2 average for the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The jump came despite the fact that many more devices were being used, according to Michel.

With mobile surging, Michel said Akamai found a 72% increase in overall traffic during Sochi. The jump came even though the Winter Games had 98 medal competitions, compared to 302 in which athletes vied for gold, silver and bronze during the London Games.

Michel said favorable time zones will also boost in interest in the FIFA tourney. In North America, which is one hour behind Brazil, Michel said World Cup computer viewing figures to be high and there will be more than a few “Hey boss, look I’m working moments” as many matches fall during weekday afternoons.

Relative to The Continent, where soccer is king in most nations, many of the mid-day start times in Brazil will play in the early evening. ”With Europe heavily engaged, there will be a big spike for the World Cup,” he said.

Work on the 2014 World Cup has been taking place to some degree for almost four years. Akamai officials said conversations began shortly after the conclusion of the 2010 South African competition and preparations have been underway for more than a year now. The company, which will supply technical assistance in delivering live and on-demand online video for the action from Brazil, counts the CBC (Canada), SBS (Australia), SVT (Sweden), Singtel (Singapore), TVB.com (Hong Kong), Telecinco (Spain), Wilmaa (Switzerland) and Zattoo (Germany and Switzerland), among its rights-holder roster.

Akamai said it plans to supply updates on data consumption throughout the tournament, projecting estimates based on info derived from its geographically diverse group of clients.