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4K off the grid

November 6, 2014

Mehul Kapadia   

Global Head of Marketing Tata Communications

This year’s Formula One night race in Singapore was notable for many things. Lewis Hamilton dominated the race, finally taking the flag and leaping into the overall lead. 80,000 people attended the event, and millions watched the race from the comfort of their homes. However, for me the most exciting and important development at this year’s Singapore event was our successful demonstration of the first ever live 4K feed of a Formula One event over fibre.

What race-goers do not see is the enormous technical set up that enables the race to happen. With wireless sensors in the cars and around the track, it is now possible to capture phenomenal amounts of data – information that helps drivers and pit crews to make adjustments and enhancements that increase speed and help ensure safety.

Our partnership with Formula One Management (FOM) is about pushing the technology to the limits for the benefit of everyone involved with the race, including viewers and fans. During the Singapore practice session we delivered live footage in 4K quality, end-to-end, over the Tata Communications Global Video Connect Network to Formula One Management’s (FOM) Technical HQ in Biggin Hill in the UK. That’s a distance of over 10,000 kilometres and multiple time zones. This is a game changing development because 4K will enable a whole new level of sports broadcasting in the future.

This coupled with the fact that interest in 4K broadcasting has exploded in the last year now means that the future is upon us. And although the first ever live 4K feed of a Formula One event over fibre was not broadcast to viewers at home, our proof of concept event demonstrated the capability which will soon be transferred to fans watching in the comfort of their own homes, providing them with the best possible viewing experience.

4K broadcasting promises ground breaking definition which, of course, requires higher bandwidth. Last year we provided distribution of 120 megabits per second (mbps) for JPEG 2000, a significant step up on standard HD. However, this year in Singapore we went further – we provided 480 mbps for a single feed in 4K and 120 mbps for standard HD feed. The 4K transmission was made across our Video Connect Network which gives 4x redundant connectivity between source and destination and ensures zero packet drop so the viewing experience is seamless. After all Formula One viewers want to keep up with the race in real time; loss of content is simply not allowed.

The critical factor here is connectivity and the ability to transmit broadcast content seamlessly worldwide. Our deep experience in delivering content of all kinds around the globe via our wholly owned network of subsea cables gives Tata Communications the necessary insight into how the future of broadcast communications will develop. Marrying that to the last delivery methods like the live 4K feed enables broadcasters to deliver exactly the kind of unmissable footage viewers want.

The potential for this technology is immense. Today broadcast viewers have a relatively linear experience – FOM shoots and edits footage, viewer watches footage. In the future the technologies we’re beginning to capitalise on today, like 4K and fibre, will allow is to manage content in ways that is just not possible via satellite link. In the near future, FOM may be able to select specific live video feeds on the fly to share with their fans.

The ability to give fans that intimate, detailed and enhanced live contact that comes from a greatly improved quality picture is a highly sought prize by sports of all kinds. Once the televisions keep pace with the broadcast capabilities then we’re truly bringing the race to people’s living rooms. The good news is we already have the global capability of the world’s largest network in place to support the future of broadcasting and to deliver truly transformative viewing experiences.

What do you think the future of sports broadcasting will look like? Leave your thoughts below.

Have what it takes to revolutionise Formula 1’s video archives? The third challenge of our F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize is open now.

Follow Mehul on Twitter: @mehulkapadia