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It may have been the longest football trip in history. As excitement was building momentum in the weeks leading up the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa, enthusiasts were dribbling a football, known in the U.S. as a soccer ball, more than 10,500 kilometers over land, sea, and air across 11 countries on two continents.
Similar to the Olympic Flame relay that precedes the World Olympic Games, the Big Kick football traveled from Germany, the venue for the 2006 World Cup, to South Africa, this year’s host nation, on an odyssey that took 46 days and ended 24 hours before the opening ceremony on June 11. As the ball made its way on a journey that scaled the heights of Kilimanjaro, took in the awesome sight of Victoria Falls, and trekked through the wildliferich Tanzanian bush, a video team filmed its progress.
During the journey, mobile connectivity posed a major challenge in countries with limited or no terrestrial telecom service. But, thanks to services provided by Hughes Europe, followers of “The Big Kick to Johannesburg” were able to stay up-to-date with the project.
Inmarsat’s BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) satellite service, coupled with Hughes 9201 BGAN terminals, offered the only communications solution that could provide the quality and coverage required for the African leg of the journey. The size of a laptop computer, fitting easily into a small backpack, the Hughes 9201 delivers highspeed data and voice communications over Inmarsat’s global BGAN network, which covers more than 85 percent of the earth’s surface, including some of its most remote areas.
The Hughes-provided BGAN solution delivered rugged, yet easy-to-use connectivity in linking Africa with the rest of the world, and enabled the team to send pictures and video daily via Deutsche Telekom’s Munich-based data center. Numerous events were held along the way as the ball traveled through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa, with daily video coverage powered by Hughes satellite service.
Sponsored by HMI, a subsidiary of German insurance giant Ergo Versicherung, the Big Kick project raised €150,000 for “Ein Herz für Kinder,” “A Heart for Children” charity that undertakes major relief projects in Africa such as education and AIDS prevention.
“The Big Kick project in Africa demonstrates Hughes’ unmatched ability to provide mobile connectivity on a truly global basis,” said Christopher Britton, managing director of Hughes Europe. “In addition to supporting important charitable causes, the Hughes 9201 and the Inmarsat BGAN service are regularly being used to meet today’s growing demand for applications such as media broadcast, telemedicine, and disaster relief.”
And while World Cup fever was building, the Hughes-provided BGAN service meant that fans around the world could support a worthy cause and, at the same time, never miss a kick—even before the World Cup started.