Television viewers won't be the only ones able to tune into the World Cup this year. The mobile division of the German telecoms giant announced it would broadcast 20 games for its customers. But how many will tune in?
Checking out the World Cup matches
Anyone looking for confirmation that the next generation of mobile phones has arrived need wait no longer than this Summer's World Cup.
T-Mobile, the mobile wing of the German telecoms company Deutsche Telekom, is planning to broadcast 20 matches of the four-week tournament. Mobile phone customers will pay 2 euros a day, or 7.50 euros per month for the package, which will also include programming from MTV. British mobile provider O2 is planning a similar venture to coincide with the World Cup, but with a smaller group of users.
Coming on the heels of successes with Asian mobile phone users, European companies are wondering if a World Cup year will bring the breakthrough they have been waiting for. Ever since the establishment of UMTS networks across Germany enabled users to do everything from downloading video clips to checking e-mail, telecoms companies have been trying in vain to get customers to purchase the extra services.
Who will watch it?
So far, they haven't had much success. Among 80 million mobile phone users in Germany, only 2.3 million have phones capable of exploiting the various UMTS features - though nine million are expected this year.
T-Mobile will broadcast 20 World Cup games
Telecoms companies are plowing ahead optimistically anyway. At this year's CeBIT, the buzz is about a mobile system even faster than UMTS. High Speed Downlink Packet Access, of HSDPA, allows users to play games online and watch films without digital hitches. But citing the lagging interest in UMTS, analysts are skeptical.
"Consumers are not looking for quicker versions of UMTS, but a good reason why they should even use UMTS," said Vincent Ohana of the technology consulting group Eurospace in an interview with television station ARD.
Robbie Williams, yes; Soccer, no
Analysts are just as skeptical about the number of people who will actually take advantage of the World Cup offers by T-Mobile and O2. Though 100,000 customers tuned in to watch a live broadcast of a Robbie Williams concert last fall, interest in soccer -- which doesn't play well on a small screen -- could be limited. T-Mobile is perhaps hoping analysis and highlight clips provided by German pay TV channel Premiere, which currently holds the rights to German and European soccer, will sweeten the deal.