Euro 2012: How mobile has been a game of two halves in Poland

Euro 2012: How mobile has been a game of two halves in Poland

Summary: Co-host Poland prepared for the tournament with ubiquitous QR codes and extra infrastructure as fans sent mobile data and voice usage skywards

TOPICS: Mobility

While football teams from around Europe are battling it out on the pitch during Euro 2012, mobile coverage is also proving a game of two halves for tournament co-host Poland.

Mobile has been figuring highly on the agenda of companies hoping to profit from Euro 2012, as well as organisations that offer services aimed at supporters. The competition has seen a range of Euro 2012 themed apps launched, and in Poland QR codes seem to be printed everywhere (even on the stadiums' plastic beer glasses, courtesy of the main sponsor) to take fans direct to the apps or to information on useful local services including travel.

The impact of mobile hasn't been far from operators minds either. During the tournament, four Polish cities will play host to soccer matches: Wroclaw, Warsaw, Gdansk and Poznan. To keep cope with the increased mobile traffic during the competition that fans, each of Poland's four main operators has placed extra mobile masts at one of the cities' stadiums: PTK Centertel, which operates under the Orange brand, in Wroclaw; Polkomtel in Warsaw; T-Mobile in Gdansk; and P4 in Poznan. Wroclaw saw 160 masts put in from Orange, while T-Mobile added 66 in Gdansk.

Voice vs data

During the group stages, more than two million fans watched the matches in the fanzones alone. The country's largest operator PTK Centertel experienced a "significant' increase" in data consumption during the group stages, while P4, the fourth largest mobile operator in Poland, reported a spike in data usage around the fanzones, albeit one dwarfed by voice, which saw a tenfold increase in usage.

Changes in data usage differed remarkably between the zones, according to P4: for example, the fanzone in Gdansk saw an eightfold increase in data consumption during the matches, while it doubled in Wroclaw.

The differences are more down to the location of the fanzones, rather than the data-savviness of a particular group of supporters.

Where the zone is located in a city centre, the percentage increase is comparatively smaller, as city centres will typically see a higher level of traffic during the day. In Gdansk's case, the fanzone is outside the city centre, so normal daytime traffic is quite low. Wroclaw on the other hand has turned its entire city centre into one big supporter haven; normal data usage there is already quite high.

Using Poland's operators haven't always got the ball in the back of the net when it comes to mobile services: when the home team opened the tournament against Greece on 8 June, getting a tweet out from the crowded Warsaw fanzone (150,000 people in and around a small area) was next to impossible, as this editor found out.

And while Orange, the official Euro 2012 sponsor in Poland, has put in a new ROADM network for audio and video transmission, along with the extra antennae, a spokesman said the 70 or so upgrade projects it completed ahead of the tournament do not represent a higher than normal level of spending for the operator.

The theory has long been that countries like Poland are overtaking the West when it comes to mobile internet consumption, enabling them to skip the rollout of now-outdated technologies. Last year during a press briefing last year, T-Systems CEO Reinhard Clemens claimed that Central and Eastern Europe are on par, if not leapfrogging, Western Europe on mobile internet infrastructure. For Poland, for now at least, such words need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Topic: Mobility

Michiel van Blommestein

About Michiel van Blommestein

Michiel van Blommestein is a Dutch journalist who has been living in Poland since 2010. He worked as a technology journalist in the Netherlands before moving to Poland to work as a regular correspondent for various news outlets. He still loves the bits and bytes though.

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  • Mobile Poland

    Michiel - I was there in both Warsaw and Wroclaw at the opening and later games and did not experience anything you have described above. Is it because you are using some dated equipment? Or maybe you're just like BBC looking for some attention? I really doubt your findings and would like to see some official sources where you got your info from. Otherwise, this is just another bs.. article
    • Re: Mobile Poland

      @scuubbi Unless you consider a Galaxy SII dated (I know these things can go fast). Also, I was on a 'local' subscription, so no roaming issues or the like. But as always: different users can have different experiences.

      Also, please note that the data given in this article come directly from the mentioned operators (P4 was particularly helpful in this).

      Just to add something: the last paragraph mainly refers to frequency tenders (a detail that did not make it in the published article). The fact is that Poland still has some tenders going that have already finished in Western Europe (ie. 2,6 GHz, and 800 MHz, at least that's what P4 states). Once those tenders are complete, they can roll out newer network technologies.