World Cup rush leaves gaps in Brazil cell network

Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:54am EDT
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By Brad Haynes and Luciana Bruno

SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracanã stadium was in a frenzy. Brazil had trounced the Spanish world champions. Yet 73,000 soccer fans could scarcely send a text message to celebrate.

The final of the 2013 Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for this year's World Cup, was a promising 3-0 victory for Brazil's national team but a bad omen for its cellphone network.

Despite costly investments and another year to prepare, phone companies are still struggling to provide adequate coverage of key sites for the tournament starting in June.

Several stadiums were delivered months late and work at major airports remains unfinished, forcing the telecoms industry to cut back and in some cases even cancel planned investments.

"Where we don't have much time, we probably won't be able to give complete coverage for the stadiums," said Eduardo Levy, head of a Brazilian industry group tasked with preparing cellphone coverage at World Cup venues.

If the problems from last year recur, it may be hard for fans to make a phone call at a big game, let alone upload photos

or peruse social media.

Jerome Valcke, secretary general of soccer's governing body FIFA, said recently he was deeply worried that in most cases communications for fans and media will not be fully tested before the tournament begins.   Continued...

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke (R), Brazil's former soccer player and member of the Local Organizing Committee Ronaldo and Brazil's Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo (L) visit the Arena da Baixada stadium in Curitiba April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer