Rush To Prepare For World Cup Leaves Gaps In Brazil's Cell Phone Network
The final of last year's Confederations Cup may have been a 3-0 victory for Brazil's national team, but it was "a bad omen for its cellphone network" at Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã stadium, according to Haynes & Bruno of REUTERS. Despite "costly investments" and another year to prepare for this year's World Cup, phone companies "are still struggling to provide adequate coverage of key sites." Several stadiums were delivered months late and work at major airports remains unfinished, forcing the telecoms industry "to cut back and in some cases even cancel planned investments." Eduardo Levy, head of a Brazilian industry group tasked with preparing cellphone coverage at World Cup venues, said, "Where we don't have much time, we probably won't be able to give complete coverage for the stadiums." FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said recently that he was "deeply worried that in most cases communications for fans and media will not be fully tested before the tournament begins." Valcke: "We don't want Brazil to be remembered as the worst World Cup of all time because the journalists could not get their stories out to the rest of the world." That pattern of "soaring demand and stagnant investment has dogged much of Brazil's economy, leading to logjams on major highways and airport tarmacs as well as phone networks." Carriers already "have a reputation in Brazil for spotty coverage and lousy service, making them one of the most resented industries judging by consumer complaints." Carriers "are also beefing up their fiber optic networks" connecting host cities and adding antennas at major hotels, training centers and public venues. Telefonica Brasil alone is preparing 65 new cell towers at key World Cup sites. Other phone companies, such as Grupo Oi, "are expanding their Wi-Fi networks in popular public areas to help offload heavy data users from their cell networks." FIFA has yet to approve carriers' use of complementary Wi-Fi networks at stadiums, which could increase data capacity by as much as 50% (REUTERS, 4/23).