South African telecom preps for games

While most attention has been focused on building and upgrading of stadiums and other infrastructure for the Soccer World Cup, one of the biggest requirements will be to ensure that there is sufficient telecom capacity to handle the expected influx of visitors.

With an estimated several million people expected to arrive in South Africa for the global football event (over two million arrived in Germany in 2006, according to the World Cup organizing committee), it is likely that each of them will have a cell phone, either on roaming or will buy a pay-as-you-go plan when they land.

Most of these visitors will need to make calls, and the potential revenue for SA's mobile operators is massive, says Tim Courtenay, MD of ATIO Telecom Services division.

The networks in turn will need to plan for this sudden influx by upgrading their capacity at airports and stadiums, he adds. Most football stadiums can accommodate anything from 50,000 to 100,000 people, most of whom will want to make or receive a call, he says.

"We are anticipating that there is going to be quite a significant need in the market here to plan, implement and measure the quality of mobile networks from a subscriber's point of view," he says. "The country needs to take full advantage of the influx of people and the media exposure of something like a World Cup."

Networks will need to ensure that their services are ready to handle the influx, and, especially, to see that their roaming capabilities are sufficiently robust, as most visitors are expected to be foreign tourists who will be roaming.

"There are these issues of expectation of quality of service and capacity planning, but there are also concerns such as revenue generation and revenue management that are going to be such an issue for the 2010 World Cup," says Courtenay.

Over and above this, the types of services operators going to be offering are likely to be much more advanced than those to which subscribers are currently used.

Much faster data services and mobile television broadcasts are likely to be as mainstream as camera phones are now. This means that operators will need to think about how they will bill and offer these services, especially when some of them, such as mobile TV broadcasts, might be provided by a third party.

"We have skills to help telcos with their planning for the changed nature of the value chain of what operators are offering and what the telecom industry will need to be doing," Courtenay adds.

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