SBS' FIFA World Cup 2014 coverage a success, but customers left with data woes

A 3.45Mbps streaming quality left customers worrying about insufficient data from their telcos

SBS broke a number of its streaming service records by going all out with its Web and mobile coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

By July 10, the World Cup generated 750 per cent more video traffic for SBS than any other event. The broadcaster registered nine million hits to The World Game’s (TWG) dedicated World Cup site, and another five million to TWG’s specially-built app (developed by Hostworks).

But while the broadcaster enjoyed the national spotlight throughout the month-long football tournament, Australian consumers were left to struggle with insufficient data, or consequently, bill shock as a result of excess data usage.

In partnering with Akamai, the company which delivered SBS’s coverage, SBS was able to achieve a video streaming quality of 3.45 megabits per second (Mbps).

Some basic conversion and mathematics indicates that at this maximum quality, a 90-minute game (sans pre-match, half time, and post-match content) consumed 2.32 gigabytes (GB) of data. The figure of course varies as quality can succumb to peaks and troughs. Users did not have the option of selecting a bit rate.

Let’s put that into perspective to the amount of data included in contracts from Australia’s major telecommunications providers, Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone.

Telstra’s 24-month, $70 month plan includes 1.5GB of data, Optus’ 24-month, $60 contract bundles 2GB of data, and Vodafone’s 24-month, $60 deal comes with 3GB of data.

SBS sport online executive producer, Toby Forage, said the goal was to produce the best visual experience without compromise considering the uptake of smartphones and tablets since the last 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and more recently, the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Akamai South Asia sales vice-president, Malcolm Rowe, said the balance of quality and social responsibility was a challenge. He added that this effort was about the customer experience, and a means of demonstrating capabilities.

Read more: HTC posts slim Q2 profit

Number crunching

During the World Cup, Akamai delivered its online services via 24 broadcasters worldwide.

According to the company's figures, the game between Australia and Chile drove 2 terabits per second (Tbps) globally.

Its busiest period of traffic was during the simultaneous broadcasts of matches between Germany and the USA, and Portugal and Ghana; 6.85Tbps were delivered.

The most popular event was USA vs Belgium, generating 5.68Tbps.

Akamai claims it provided 15 million hours of football video up to the semi-final, to more than 25 million viewers. It expects the latter number to double by the end of the tournament.

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Tags mobileTelcosmartphonenetworkTelecommunicationsWi-FiakamaistreaminggermanyfootballBrazilTabletSBSsoccerArgentinaFIFA World CupMB

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Nermin Bajric
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