World Cup Fans Drop Work, Pick Up Phones as Web Streaming Spikes

The fervor for World Cup matches isn’t just crowding bars in the U.S. -- it’s also filling the airwaves, as fans watch live streams, send messages and check Twitter on their phones.

On T-Mobile US Inc.’s network, traffic has leapt 30 percent during World Cup matches, the company said. Verizon Communications Inc. said it has also had a recent increase, though it can’t confirm it was because of the soccer tournament. Watching the game on a phone can help fans avoid the prying eyes of the boss at work or keep tabs on the score while away from the TV.

Mobile-phone companies have been upgrading their networks to long-term evolution technology as consumers push for more streaming video, from live sports like football and basketball to movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Last year, video made up more than half of mobile data use worldwide for the first time, helping push total traffic up 81 percent, according to Cisco Systems Inc.

Univision Communications Inc. is offering free online streaming in Spanish of much of the tournament, including today’s U.S. match against Belgium, and Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN offers online coverage for cable subscribers. Internet traffic distributor Akamai Technologies Inc. reported a peak of 6.84 terabits per second in online traffic for the simultaneous June 26 matches between the U.S. and Germany and between Portugal and Ghana.

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