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If ever there was an occasion where you would want the world to unite, then look no further than the World Cup. The historical footballing event brings people from all over the world, from every race and culture together, be it virtually (online) or physically.

The internet usage during the World Cup is off the charts. This brings us to an interesting debate, how many users tune in online to watch the event, how much internet data they use, and will it clog the internet at one point?

In this article, we seek to answer these questions and see how Russia World Cup impacts the internet while users beat to the rhythm of football.

How Many Internet Users Are There Globally?

Before discussing the impact of Russian World Cup 2018, let’s have a look at the number of internet users around the world. The table below shows the number of users in millions from 2009 – 2017, region by region.


Source: Statista – Number of Worldwide Internet Users

As it can be clearly seen, the number of users has only increased year by year in every region, with Asia having the most internet users, followed by Europe and Latin America.

Expected Annual Growth

According to Cisco Visual Networking Index, internet traffic will grow by more than 20%. In 2013 the former Google chairman, Eric Schmidt expected the whole world to be connected by 2023.

As of now, approximately 54% of the world’s population is connected to the internet.

With smartphone costs increasingly becoming affordable, the number of internet users is expected to increase exponentially. Another helping hand in this factor is the accessibility to internet, as telecom providers offer high-speed internet packages.

Internet Penetration in the World

More than half the world is connected to the internet. Asia has the highest number of users, but the most striking part is that half of its population does not even have access to the internet, similar is the case with Africa.

According to a report by Statista, Northern America and Europe have the highest percentage of internet penetration as of December 2017. Middle East, Australia, and Latin America have more than 50 percent internet accessibility, while Asia and Africa are far behind.



Russia World Cup 2018 Streaming Traffic

According to content delivery network (CDN) provider Akamai, in only 10 days the Russia World Cup streaming traffic has already surpassed the previous World Cup (back in Brazil, 2014). Furthermore, it streamed 65% more data by the end of the group stage than it did in the entire 2014 World Cup.

Internet Traffic Records

According to Cisco’s State of the Internet Report, the World Cup 2014 broke all internet traffic records. It generated a staggering 4.3 exabytes of IP traffic.

However, World Cup Russia 2018 is now breaking all previous records. According to Conviva, which is a widely known international media rating measurement service, in the first week alone 393 million instances (roughly 6.9 billion minutes) of matches were streamed.

During the match between Sweden vs. Mexico and Germany vs. South Korea, number of streaming users reached to a record level of 9.7 million. The data also indicates that football followers are now streaming online instead of watching on traditional television, this enables the viewer to watch the match anywhere on the go.

Although, we think that the quarterfinal matches would have shattered this record by now. The growth of online streaming can be accredited to huge improvements in online streaming capabilities and the growth of the digital media industry.

Russia World Cup 2018 Traffic Prediction

In 2014, Cisco forecasted that the current 2018 World Cup would drive global traffic up to 132 exabytes. In simple terms, it means 4.5 trillion YouTube clips or 8.8 billion people simultaneously streaming the match on 4K HDTVs or equivalent to 5.5 billion people watching ‘Game of thrones’. In measurable terms it converts to 940 quadrillion text messages!

Cisco also projected some key facts about global traffic. It predicted that mobile and portable devices are driving major IP traffic, while television and PC show a lower trend. The expected growth rate of traffic generated by tablets is 74%, smartphones 64% and M2M connections 84%.

Similarly, it projected that IP video will be 79 percent of all IP traffic by 2018. Among which, Ultra HD video will account for 11 percent of IP video traffic and HD video to be 52 percent of the IP video traffic by 2018.

Traffic during World Cup Game on Mobile Networks

As stated, mobile devices lead the way for most of the internet traffic for World Cup. To see how they vary between games and which platforms are most used, we came across a study conducted by Cam Cullen (VP of Global Marketing at Sandvine).


Source: Sandvine

As can be seen in the chart above, the traffic increases during the early games, but booms during the final game. During the match, traffic on YouTube decreases by 30%, then gains 10% during half time, and then loses all of that when the game starts again.


Source: Sandvine

Immediately after the match Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat all spike up as people connect to share their feelings about the game. A similar pattern was shown by other social media applications like WhatsApp and Instagram, but the difference was that the two applications peaked at the end of the match.

Another surprising fact is that gaming traffic also doubled during half time and was 50% higher after the game than before. Perhaps one of the reasons for this because FIFA gave a free update that enabled users to play the world cup mode within the game.

So if your country’s team is playing in the World Cup, the traffic is expected to only get worse as the game progresses!

How is the traffic being managed? Will it be congested?

This World Cup is the largest online live broadcasting event in history and with the traffic it is driving, there are chances of internet being clogged. Currently, Alibaba Cloud supports 70% of total online streaming traffic for the 2018 World Cup, but will it be enough?

What is Internet Traffic Congestion?

When an internet route becomes too full, or when there are too many requests over a specific network route, there is a backup of data packets. In a condition where too many data packets try to move through a specific route, it results in network congestion.

Counter Measures to Avoid Internet Congestion

To avoid any chances of internet congestion, different providers have implement state of the art technology to cater the immense traffic needs. Here are some highlights:

  • Alibaba provided its customers with full stack technology and support services through elastic computing, CDN, video AI, and narrow-band HD 2.0 technologies
  • With the narrow band HD technology, Youku saved up to 40% bandwidth consumption while maintaining ultra HD streaming quality
  • Most national events in China have been supported by Alibaba cloud, for example content providers like WeChat, Mango TV, and CCTV all rely on Alibaba Cloud’s elastic solutions to smoothly handle traffic peaks
  • Currently Alibaba cloud is the largest CDN service provider in China and owns more than 1500 nodes and 120 TB bandwidth globally
  • It also handles one third of China’s internet traffic

With Alibaba proving itself strong in all ventures that it peruses, plus the innovative technologies implemented by it, it is very unlikely that internet traffic congestion occurs.

Final Words

World Cup is leading the way and breaking records worldwide when it comes to internet usage. As you can see from our post, as the internet accessibility increases, the use of internet during these tournaments will keep on increasing.

As far as internet congestion goes, such problems might occur in regions such as the sub-continent and Africa. These countries don’t have state of the art infrastructure to handle immense traffic loads. On the contrary, Northern America, Europe, and few other developed regions have the capabilities to overcome this problem.

What are your thoughts? Will the internet work properly? Share us your thoughts in the comment section below.