Industry Blog

The Russia 2018 World Cup – will you put one in the net, or get red carded?

Russia 2018 and mobile video streaming

We did it again! Four years ago, just before the 2014 Brazil World Cup kicked off, we surveyed mobile subscribers in the UK, Germany and Spain on their plans to watch the Beautiful Game on their handsets over 3G/4G. Now the world has once again gathered for Russia 2018. Of course, the vast majority of fans will not be in Russia for the games, they will be huddled around screens – large, small and handheld. So, we repeated our research amongst three football-crazy European nations to see what has changed since the last World Cup.

Four years is a long time. On the pitch in 2014 the likes of Müller, Messi and Ramos captured the imagination of billions – and will do so again in Russia. But some “players” have changed. Off the pitch in 2014 the likes of the HTC M8, Samsung S5 and the iPhone 5 made the first team every time – ruling supreme on mobile networks. But phones get substituted faster than players, and in 2018, facial recognition, talking emojis and UHD screens are grabbing the attention.

Our survey undertaken by Censuswide definitely revealed a tale of two halves.

Is it a goal? Yep but a red card too!

The first half is a mixed performance. The research revealed that nearly 1 in 3 (31%) fans plan to watch the 2018 World Cup using a mobile data connection – that’s nearly double the number of people (17%) from 2014.

Great result right? Now for the bad news. 29% of European fans revealed that they will avoid watching it on their phones because of perceptions of poor Quality of Experience (QoE) and bill shock.

OK, that is really bad news. Why? Because in 2014, that figure was 18%. So sadly, whilst phones grew in sophistication and beauty, operators have not made dramatic progress with QoE. The same concerns expressed by viewers of the Brazilian World Cup in 2014 not only linger, but have increased. And in the eyes of football fans, abysmal quality will land operators the red card!

Will it go to extra time? … No way!

Our previous exclusive studies of consumers in the US, Europe and Middle East have shown that subscribers will only tolerate six seconds of buffering before abandoning a video in frustration. And if that was not enough, operators also face an added complexity with huge global sporting events like the World Cup. The surge for live streaming strains mobile networks to their limits because it has its own unique requirements and protocols compared to Video on Demand streaming. Put simply, traditional optimization technology really does not cut it, and it adversely impacts QoE.

And poor QoE leads to churn…or in footballing terms – a substitution (or maybe that’s a transfer!). With competition rife, rival operators welcome new subscribers like football clubs welcome new signs-ups on transfer deadlines!

Time for the second half. Things can only get better – right?

Keep your eye on the ball

For forward-looking mobile operators with the goal to monetize mobile video, there is (very) good news. Our Mobile Video Index has charted the phenomenal rise of mobile video. And video combined with football seems to be a hugely attractive proposition for fans. Our survey found that two out of three (69%) of football fans would switch to a mobile operator who offered an unlimited football plan on their data connection. What’s more, 20 percent are prepared to pay extra for this service (feels like an open goal – right?).

A hint of the cord cutting phenomenon is reflected in the survey too, particularly amongst the younger subscribers. Nearly 40% percent of European millennials plan to watch the 2018 World Cup on their mobile devices. That’s roughly twice the number of Baby Boomers. Clearly, the future will belong to those mobile operators willing to implement robust and innovative solutions that deliver on the promise of the mobile lifestyle. The ability to offer consistent QoE is only becoming more critical.

So, is your network ready to handle a surge in streaming traffic – and will you be able to put one in the net? Or will your competitors be the ones to score big?

And finally….Who will win the World Cup?

That’s anyone’s guess but, if it came down to mobile viewing – Spain clinches the top spot.  In 2018 just as in 2014, Spanish mobile subscribers routed the British and German fans. This year, 1 in 2 Spanish fans will watch Sergio Ramos and their team in Moscow using a mobile data connection. During Brazil 2014, it was 1 in 3. Spain’s (mobile) performance just keeps getting better and better!

What about the post-match analysis?

You bet!

Openwave Mobility has over 30 global deployments and during the World Cup our engineering teams across the world will be analyzing the impact live streaming video will have on mobile networks. In the autumn we will be launching the Mobile Video Industry Council and these findings will be discussed with the world’s leading operators. Watch this space for more information.

Until then, enjoy the games, and good luck … on and off the field!