a week in wireless

It’s a funny old game

It’s with a heavy heart that The Informer puts hand to keyboard today, following the ignominious exit of the English football team from the World Cup in Brazil. As ever, following the national football team has been an emotional rollercoaster, exacerbated by violently shifting expectations in the build-up to the tournament.

As recently as a month ago most reasonably objective observers took a look at the England team sheet and concluded that, man for man, we are a bit low on superstars. We have nobody like Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo and our cause it not helped by the fact that any English player with a half decent left foot seems to defect to the Welsh the moment we might have use for them. As a consequence the press has fixated on our one player most capable of delivering a bit of magic – Wayne Rooney – and typically campaigned to have him dropped from the team.

But then, as the big day approached, a decidedly un-English wave of optimism engulfed us. Our previously untested bunch of kids, there as much for the experience as for any realistic chance of beating anyone, were suddenly transformed into thrusting young turks, set to inject fearless vigour into our jaded team. Pundits said as much, with the likes of Rio Ferdinand confessing that their view of our chances had undergone a total revision in recent weeks, despite there being no change to the personal or tactics in that time and the conspicuous absence of magic potion on the team dinner menu.

This cognitive dissonance even survived defeat by Italy, with the commentariat inexplicably focusing on the buccaneering play of our fearless young lions rather than the fact that we lost. And besides, Costa Rica were rubbish and Uruguay couldn’t even beat them, so if we played anything like as well as we did against Italy, we would brush aside these two Latin American minnows with a combined population of a London borough.

The Informer found himself in the novel position of sitting in a pub that was showing the football, but favouring conversation over actually watching the game, and relying on the cheers, jeers, gasps and groans of the other punters (and yes, the odd surreptitious glance at the BBC Sport app) to indicate the state of play. What was remarkable was not the eruption of sound when Rooney scored but the complete lack of audible response to both times Uruguay scored and to the final whistle. In retrospect the silence was deafening.

Not everyone was as deflated by the result as the patrons of the pub in question, however. EE wasted little time in jauntily pinging over a press release today entitled “EE sees record network traffic levels during England vs Uruguay World Cup match”, with an anonymous EE spokesperson remarking “Last night was a tense and fraught affair in Sao Paulo. England fans were glued to the action wherever they were, driving record traffic levels on the EE network. We saw the largest data traffic level we have ever experienced.” Further proof that every cloud has a silver lining.

Over in Rio itself, Nextel was doubtless showing a similar gift for opportunism, having just switched on its LTE network there. There was presumably a traffic spike there during the Brazil Mexico game earlier this week, although it’s hard to imagine any fan matching the fervour exhibited by a Telefonica employee The Informer had the pleasure of watching the game with.

In some parts of the world, mere LTE is already old hat, of course. At the start of the week South Korea decided to impede its development of 5G by teaming up with the mega-bureaucracy that is Europe, leading SKT to try to make as much progress as possible in advance of the great meeting of minds. Bouygues put its corporate disappointment behind it to launch LTE-A in France, but EE decided to keep VoLTE on the back-burner for a bit longer and dabble in wifi calling instead.

The ultimate triumph of optimism over harsh reality may turn out to be Amazon’s decision to try to take on Apple, Samsung, and countless other incumbents in the smartphone game. In launching the Fire at a premium price, when everyone knows the point of it is to induce us to spend more money with Amazon, is the kind of blindly optimistic gesture England football fans would, until last night have admired. But when the plucky upstart Fire eventually meets the seasoned veterans in the field, youthful vigour alone is unlikely to trump their superior technique, calmness under pressure and countless other strained metaphors.

Take care.

The Informer

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