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Countdown to Baku: connecting the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to the world

June 15, 2016

Ignacio Mateo   

International Field Operations team

This weekend will see a new kid on the block – or in the F1 racing calendar – as the brand new Baku City Circuit makes its debut for the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe.

FIA Formula One race director, Charlie Whiting, expects the new venue to produce a fascinating race, thanks to an eclectic combination of the city’s Old Town with its narrow turns, and the superfast main straight on the scenic seaside boulevard. For the drivers looking to clinch a podium spot in this inaugural race, Baku’s street circuit is similar to Singapore’s – just a lot faster; possibly the fastest street circuit of the calendar.

For months ahead of each Grand Prix, our technical experts work closely with our thousands of carrier partners globally to enable us to connect the so-called last mile – the distance from the closest Tata Global Network point-of-presence (PoP) to each race circuit. They spend more than 140 days out of the country each year, travelling to a new race location every couple of weeks to link another Grand Prix to this last mile and our global superfast network – and doing more than 120 hours of network testing per race

Connectivity through mud volcanoes and salt lakes

When it comes to delivering the action from trackside to living rooms, Baku poses a few challenges not found at the more established F1 locations

Despite Azerbaijan’s fast growing oil and natural gas industry that relies on global connectivity, many of the networks other nations take for granted simply haven’t been built yet. Furthermore, the country’s networks are at present equipped with limited bandwidth, with only a fraction of the several terabytes of capacity that would be commonplace in more established economies.

This is compounded by the remote location of Azerbaijan: by the Caspian Sea, surrounded by mud volcanoes and salt lakes. For races at Silverstone, data has to travel just 75 miles over our partner’s terrestrial network before it reaches Tata Communications’ PoP in London. But in Baku, data needs to travel well in excess of 2,000 miles to reach our Frankfurt PoP.

The further that data needs to travel before reaching a PoP, the harder it can be to ensure that external factors won’t impact the physical fibre that our superfast connectivity relies on. That is why our technical team in Baku works closely with our partners, checking that there won’t be any issues on this 2,000-mile stretch, and to ensure a glitch-free race for fans.

The clock’s ticking…

As the first F1 practice session gets underway in Baku City Circuit, our team will have already been in the city for almost two weeks, testing and monitoring the connectivity, so that everything is ready a full week before this Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Our team knows what is at stake: a race has never been, and cannot ever be, delayed due to connectivity issues. The clock is always ticking, and unlike with most other IT and network roll-outs, there is simply no room for error. Yet, in the same way as we are able to take F1 to any location in the world, and deliver the action from the racetrack to people’s living rooms, we excel in enabling businesses to break new ground and expand into new geographies.

That is why we like to say that if we can do it for F1, we can do it for anyone. Nowhere is this truer than in Baku.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in the next generation of sports broadcasting? Let us know in the comments below.


Tata Communications was the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1® between 2012 and 2019. Tata Communications was also the Official Managed Connectivity Supplier to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, and Official Digital Transformation Partner to ROKiT Williams Racing until the end of the 2019 season.