The year 2012 is one which is synonymous with the London Olympics. Arguably the first truly “connected games”, London 2012 delivered some of the greatest sporting moments and stories to a global audience. From record breaking Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps to home-grown heroes like Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Bradley Wiggins, these were tales of sacrifice and hard work with humble beginnings which ended on the podium.
While I remember watching these moments with great excitement, 2012 is the birth year of a sporting legacy which is close to my heart and that I still live and breathe every day, five years on. In February 2012 we announced a deal to become Official Connectivity Provider to Formula 1. Later we would link up the sport’s premier team, Mercedes AMG Petronas to become its Official Managed Connectivity Supplier.
When, during our first-ever race, my colleague and I were sat in a little store room with one laptop and an MPLS router, trying to deliver high speed connectivity to Formula One Management from half the world away, I didn’t imagine that one day we would be preparing for our 100th race.
Now, five years and 100 races on, Tata Communications runs its operations from trackside garages, commentary booths, the TV and F1 broadcast compounds and off-site connectivity centres across multiple locations in the globe. During the time we’ve been involved in the sport, our achievements have included conducting remote operations for the first time; broadcasting a race via an OTT network for the first time; and delivering the racing action in Ultra HD for the first time. So, what of that journey and where will it take us next?
Engineers versus athletes
Going back to 2012, when our dream began and so many others’ Olympic dreams were realised, the moments that stay with you on those outpourings of emotion when an athlete crosses the finishing line, makes that decisive leap or strikes the winning shot rather than the action itself.
While it is a very different world, this is how it feels on Grand Prix day when we are making our own pieces of history. Seeing the spikes in data transmitted onto the engineering teams’ screens as Lewis Hamilton roars out of the pits and the real-time reaction rolling in when the entire circuit is being broadcast live on air. It’s those moments that capture weeks, months and years of preparation in a single second that bring the hard work to life.
Furthermore, one thing we certainly do have in common with Usain Bolt is that on race day everything happens at record-breaking speed. Whether it’s transmitting new data from one of the hundreds of sensors on an F1 car back to the pits and control centres or delivering the action in real time via a live OTT feed to millions around the world, a fraction of a second makes all the difference.
To ensure that not a second is missed, our team spends around one weeks building what is equivalent to a small connectivity village at each location, three weeks before race weekend – an operation that would normally take twice that amount of time. This is complicated by the demands of each race location bringing new levels of complexity. In Monaco for example, we operate out of an underground car park while the cars race around the streets overhead.
Our race is never won
Like elite athletes we are constantly working to improve and achieve more. We want to get faster and give fans more amazing experiences than ever before.
Thankfully, in F1 we have a partner that matches our ambition, and with Liberty Media’s takeover of FOM, the onus is now on the entire ecosystem to digitally transform the sport even further, whether that’s evolving the fan experience with new technology like AR and VR, bringing the sport to more fans worldwide, or driving the teams to ever greater heights.
The day after our partnership with F1 was announced, I remember seeing a news headline that said that it would be “the deal that will change F1 forever”.
At the time we had little idea how F1 would change so much over that period, but how much it would also change us a team and as a company. From our humble beginnings of seeing F1 as the ultimate connectivity showcase to being a part of a genuinely transformative partnership, we have seen 99 podium finishes.
With the 100th and beyond, I cannot wait to see the transformation continue and accelerate some more.
To learn more about how Tata Communications has helped to drive F1 connectivity, click here.