What Mobile Can Learn From the World Cup

A ton of data regarding mobile usage during the World Cup has finally been released, and as I discuss in my latest post at GigaOM Pro, there are a few things we can learn from how we used our handsets to track the tournament and what that data might signal for the next few years of mobile:

Mobile data is ramping up. Allot Communications found that worldwide mobile broadband usage increased 24 percent during World Cup matches. Web browsing on mobile devices saw an impressive 35 percent rise during the games, while ESPN reported the event’s first round was responsible for more than 20 million visits to its mobile web sites.

Apps, meanwhile, are leading the way in mobile. ESPN delivered 2.5 million downloads of its World Cup application, and 800,000 users downloaded its ScoreCenter app in June. Univision also reported success with its Futbol App, which was downloaded more than 450,000 times from Apple’s App Store. Meanwhile, the WC2010 World Cup BlackBerry app from Polar Mobile delivered 265,000 downloads during the tournament.

Mobile video is still a niche. While Sprint crowed that “close to 700,000” of its subscribers tuned in via the carrier’s ESPN Mobile TV channel and ESPN said it delivered 555,000 mobile video sessions during a two-day period in the tournament’s early stages, those spikes, among others, belie the fact that mobile video is still a very small segment of the overall wireless data industry. Only 7.5 percent of U.S. adults currently watch video on a mobile phone once a month or more, according to a recent report from Forrester Research. Certain spikes in data usage, therefore may owe more to large, publicized events like the World Cup than any factor.

Perhaps the most important take-away from the World Cup is the one that didn’t make headlines: Networks were up to the task. While the event predictably saw a surge in mobile data consumption — including bandwidth-hogging video — there were no major reports of network failures, despite predictions to the contrary.

What’s it all mean? There’s never been more demand for mobile data, and high-profile, global events like the World Cup provide huge opportunities for carriers and other players in the value chain to expose users to lucrative data products and services. While there’s no question that a spectrum crisis looms, network operators appear prepared to handle incremental increases in data traffic — for now, at least — as they begin to roll out 4G technologies.

Read the full post here.

Image courtesy Flickr user Stanthefan.