Australians are never the winners when it comes to the FIFA World Cup football (soccer) tournament, and that's not a comment on the national team's performance. By living in our own corner of the world, we've always been forced to wake up at ridiculous hours to catch the tournament (with the 2002 instalment the only exception). The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is no different; the opening match is at 6:00am Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) on a Thursday, and the trio of daily group stage matches thereafter are scheduled for 2:00am, 5:00am, and 8:00am (aside from a single 11:00am game).
Australia itself plays its first game against Chile at 8:00am on Friday, June 13. The two subsequent clashes against the Netherlands and Spain are scheduled for 2:00am on Wednesday, June 18, and Monday, June 23, respectively.
The 2014 World Cup kicks off on June 12. Even if you're happy to sacrifice sleep like us, life can get in the way; work, commutes, driving, and ill-timed commitments are a few disruptions. The following is a guide to help you stream the World Cup when out and about.
Where can I watch the games?
The World Game on SBS is your one-stop-shop for the world game. SBS has secured exclusive broadcast rights in Australia, so neither Fox Sports or Setanta will air the tournament.
Not only will SBS show all 64 games live on free-to-air television, but it will also stream all matches live via its Web site using a new Web player. It will contain a 'multi-streams' feature with six different camera angles, four of which can be viewed simultaneously. Replays will get the same treatment. Stats will of course be overlaid.
If you're on a mobile device, SBS will have a FIFA World Cup edition of its The World Game app available for you to download for free. It promises "bespoke functionality for smartphones and tablets" of the iOS and Android variety.
Can't catch it live? Visit either SBS's On Demand catch-up service or download the respective app to watch all games once the network gets around to making them available. (Remember, if you're on Windows 8, you can download the app through the Windows Store and use it in the Modern UI).
Note that it won't be possible to turn off voice commentary on any medium. We hope this is something broadcasters consider as an optional extra in future to add to a more immersive viewing experience that allows those at home to clearly hear the fans in the stadiums.
How much data do I need?
For home use, most Internet plans should suffice when it comes to offering enough data for streaming the games. But what if you're commuting during the morning games? Mobile data isn't cheap, and Australian telecommunications providers aren't offering any specials for the World Cup. Calculating how much data you'll need can be tough at the best of times, so keep the following in mind.
According to SBS's On Demand FAQs page, 60 minutes of streaming can consume up to 675 megabytes (MB) of data, translating to 1012.5MB over 90 minutes. This equates to a download rate of 1536 kilobits per second (Kbps). This is based on what SBS calls a "strong 3G connection."
But due to the adaptive nature of SBS's Web players, you're unlikely to get a concrete figure like this (especially if you're moving about or commuting). Adaptive quality means that the quality of a stream is constantly changing based on the strength of your carrier's signal at your immediate location. If you are commuting on a train, for example, you will see constant quality changes.
Therefore if you're on a 4G connection and manage to reach a download speed of 3000Kbps, you will use 1.93 gigabytes (GB) for a 90-minute football match. That's more data than Telstra includes on its $70 24-month plan or its $55 bring-your-own-phone 12-month contract (both come with 1.5GB).
What should I do?
If you're streaming from a smartphone (or using its connection to tether to another device), we recommend sticking to your existing carrier and adding month-to-month data packs to your plan if you need more. These are applied to your account usually within the hour, and are infinitely more affordable than pay-as-you-go data.
If you are on a month-to-month post-paid plan, this could also be time to switch, especially if you're paying too much. Vodafone has improved its network in recent years and is competitive on pricing. The likes of Amaysim offers an affordable alternative to the big names.
Conveniently, Optus is launching a revised version of its SIM-only My Plan on June 10, which will allow customers to share 5GB of data between up to five devices for $60 per month.
Another option is to opt for a mobile broadband plan. One of the more competitive plans we have found is iiNet's $34.95 4G plan, which includes 10GB of any time data. Note that there is a $192 fee for the hardware, but if you already own a 4G-compatible Wi-Fi hotspot or USB dongle you only need to pay $20 up front for the SIM.
Before committing to a carrier you should find its coverage map to ensure you'll have a reliable connection in the areas you'll be using data.
We don't recommend relying on mobile data to stream full matches. It will get expensive; you will need to buy multiple data packs to keep up, and run the risk of bill shock. The World Game app should be used as a supplementary back-up for snippets of footage when you're away from a Wi-Fi connection or your TV.
We also urge you to ensure your carrier uses a notification system to warn you when you are near your data limit. Keep track of whether you actually receive these.