England fans will only be able to watch Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine live on the Internet or at the cinema in a handful of towns. England have already qualified, and in style, for next year's World Cup, so the hard work has been done. However, I suspect many will still want to see the game. Indeed, rights holders Perform anticipate more than 2.5 million viewers will want to watch the live streaming, creating a challenge for ISPs across the UK to ensure their customers get to see the game without broadband speeds suffering.
Top 10 Broadband, the popular broadband comparison site, has already advised users to check Internet speeds before they part with their cash. The game is being hosted on a range of sites, including Sun Online, Mail Online, Virgin Media and Orange. Viewers will be charged up to £11.99 by Perform if they sign up on the day of the game, a serious investment for many, so a picture that constantly breaks up is likely to be an own goal for providers.
Top 10 Broadband’s own figures show sales of "super-fast" broadband packages, with speeds above 8Mb, have increased by over 30 per cent. The broadband comparison sites claims demand spiked when it was revealed just a week before kick-off that ITV, Sky, ESPN and others would not be showing the game.
"Clearly England fans don’t care if they watch online or on TV, so long as they are sure to see the game," insists Top 10's marketing director Alex Buttle.
"The surge in fast broadband sales shows that football fans are waking up to the fact that the days of guaranteed coverage of centerpiece sports events are no more. A good broadband connection has become as essential to fans as a replica shirt or a fridge of cold beer."
Hull based ISP Karoo, part of Kingston Communications, has offered detailed advice to customers on ensuring money is well spent come teatime on Saturday.
Karoo's advice includes:
1. Use your main telephone socket
2. Check your micro filters are working properly
3. Try not to use extension leads
4. Check your router has the latest software downloads
5. Power Cycle your router. That means turn it off, leave for 1 minute then turn back on.
Like Top 10 Broadband, Karoo suggests you play any test clips offered by the provider to see how your ISP and internet connection works.
According to Karoo, a team of engineers will be on standby to deal with any problems with the network that may come up. In the dug-out - what Karoo are calling their operations centre for this match - the ISP will have a team monitoring the game and Karoo's performance, as well as ensuring the appropriate messages are available on the company's status pages and support numbers.
Karoo point out that while pirate live streams showing the match for free will likely be available you should be careful as many come with the threat of viruses and malware being downloaded or are peppered with ads and links unsuitable for family viewing.
This is the first time an event like this has been streamed online and by final whistle on Saturday we should see how well both England and the ISPs have performed. Good luck to both England and the ISPs.
(Thanks to Nick Thompson, Director of Consumer & Publishing Services, Kingston Communications. More viewing advice from Karoo can be found here.)