When Bernie Ecclestone announced the 2012 deal that brought Tata Communications into Formula 1 it was immediately apparent that this was a deal that would change F1 for ever; and so it has proven.
A similar transformation is now going on in MotoGP.
F1’s immense following had been built on mass market free to air TV using satellites in the 1980s and 1990s.
And here was an innovative young tech company that had a fibre optic ring around the globe, which would take the transmission of the sport, its live images and data around the world and open up the opportunities for fan connectivity that was becoming the holy grail of global sports franchises.
Fast forward to 2018, things have moved on quite a bit.
They expanded activity to work with Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport throughout its dominant F1 title winning years and them with many of the sport’s leading broadcasters, including SKY Sports F1.
Tata Communications has also carried out several successful proof of concept exercises including live 4K and Live 360 coverage, opening up the future for deeper and more personalised F1 coverage.
For example, 360 can offer fans the option to choose their view of race details on mobile devices. The problem with tests of live broadcast of 360 in sport had previously been a latency of around 30 seconds between the user and the broadcast images. In real time the moment had passed before the user’s manipulation of the mobile screen had changed the view. This slowed demand and take up of the technology
The exercise carried out by Tata Communications at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix cut that latency almost to zero.
With the learnings from F1 they entered Moto GP in 2017 and are now enabling the digital transformation of that sport.
Dorna, the company that owns the commercial rights to MotoGP engaged with them to help on multiple fronts.
For a start they had constraints on the bandwidth that could be used to transmit images in higher quality; for example the on-bike cameras, so crucial to the thrill and fascination of watching MotoGP race action.
Then there was the matter of getting the content feed out more quickly and seamlessly to over 80 broadcasters around the world. A solution combining fibre and satellites was devised which has transformed the coverage of the sport.
The core of the operation is the Tata Communications pods; expandable units that are shipped to every race, and in effect are fully-functioning, self-contained mobile data centres. They receive the international program feed from all the cameras on track, and ensure a high-speed, low-latency connection to the fibre network, which carries the feed to broadcasters all over the world.
Bandwidth was scaled up from the 600MB they had before to over 1GB, which means that now Dorna has the ability to do far more exciting things with on board cameras, including 360 action.
By mid 2018 there were a record 131 on bike cameras in the three MotoGP classes, streaming live content; so the director can switch between riders to show the visceral excitement of the sport.
Another area where both F1 and Moto GP have benefitted from the high-speed connectivity is in remote operations, which means that F1 and Dorna host broadcast as well as national broadcaster clients can leave more operational staff at home, carrying out their tasks remotely, saving significant travel costs.
Both F1 and MotoGP have been transformed and there is plenty more to come as fans look for increasingly personalised experiences and richer content and data about the sport they live.
The company that came into F1 promising it had ‘The speed to lead” has amply demonstrated that it is now “Trusted to win”.
All images: Motorsport Images