Interview: Mehul Kapadia, VP, F1 Business and Product Marketing, Tata Communications
We got in touch with Mehul Kapadia, vice president, Business and Product Marketing, Tata Communications, the company that's the official connectivity provider of Formula 1. He gives us an insight into the company's role in developing Formula 1 into the global giant that it is today.
Explain Tata Communications' role in Formula 1®?
The 2016 Formula 1® season marked the fifth year for Tata Communications as the Official Connectivity Provider of the global sport. Over the years, Tata Communications has enabled innovations across multiple spheres of the business of Formula One Management. Tata Communications has not only expanded its footprint within the Formula 1 ecosystem but the company also provides connectivity services to the current champions Mercedes AMG Petronas, broadcast services to Chello DMC, Red Bull Media House and GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup racing series, along with continued research and development with the team on a number of proofs-of-concept.
We roll out a full connectivity platform for Formula 1®, including voice, data and video services in the host cities through our fibre optic cable. Tata Communications does this week-on-week at all the race locations, setting up the equivalent of a city infrastructure in two days and dismantling it in just six hours, a process that would traditionally take weeks.
In 2013, Tata Communications partnered with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS to become the 'Official Managed Connectivity Supplier' to the team, delivering world-class trackside connectivity for the team at all Formula 1® race locations using the Tata Communications Global Network.
Aside from connectivity services, Tata Communications also provides media services to Formula 1®. Consumer demand for high quality, live content, across different platforms is growing. We work with 20+ broadcasters to deliver F1® to fans across the globe. Last year, Tata Communications was chosen by Formula One Management to provide broadcast services for the GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup racing series. This year, Tata Communications also partnered with Sky, to deliver the live broadcast feeds of all 21 Grands Prix starting with the 2016 FIA Formula One World ChampionshipTM season over our global superfast fibre network. We have also successfully tested in action live Ultra High Definition (UHD) broadcasting at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix. Sky will now show all races of the 2017 season in UHD.
Tata Communications helps Formula One® Management work smarter and more securely, by hosting their essential IT infrastructure. Enabling remote operations for the live broadcast production has created efficiencies of 50% cost savings by reducing trackside infrastructure, logistics and presence. This partnership is a true culmination of Tata Communications' pursuit for excellence in innovation, the capabilities of its network and the expertise of delivering extreme reliability and security.
Why did Tata Communications choose Formula 1®?
F1® is one of the most technologically advanced sports in the world. It operates like a global business with operations in over 20 countries and 5 continents, in some of the most diverse and challenging locations. It serves over half a billion customers across the globe, keeping Innovation and speed at the heart of its culture.
All these attributes together make F1® the best place to showcase our technology services and our ability to deliver consistently in challenging conditions. This convinced us that F1® is the ideal partner to enable our transformation from a global challenger to an established leader in our sector.
What process innovations were developed while setting up the hosting platform for F1®?
Our partnership with Formula One Management (FOM) has always been about pushing the limits of technology for the benefit of everyone involved with the race, including viewers and fans. Our hosting, content delivery and security services ensure that millions of fans across the globe can stay connected to the race online, in real time. Our infrastructure gives F1®.com the ability to manage millions of simultaneous page views without a glitch.
Tata Communications has enabled innovation across multiple spheres of business at Formula One. This includes the recent proof of concept where Tata Communications, Formula One Management and Sky tested in action live Ultra High Definition (UHD) broadcasting at this year's Singapore Grand Prix. Following this first ever end-to-end broadcast of an F1 race in UHD, Sky will show all races of the 2017 season in UHD. In 2014, Tata Communications also became the first company to deliver a live 4K feed from a Formula 1® event. This landmark was achieved during practice session at the 2014 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, where live footage was delivered end-to-end over Tata Communications' Global Video Connect Network, to FOM's Technical HQ in Biggin Hill, UK.
Our ongoing pursuit of excellence in innovation further led us to join forces with FOM and the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1® team to create the F1® Connectivity Innovation Prize. With the aim of engaging the brainpower of F1® fans globally, this crowd-sourcing challenge runs across the race season and assembles a panel of F1® judges of extraordinary caliber to foster and reward innovative and creative thinking in connectivity.
How does F1® benefit from Tata Communications? What are the cost savings?
We enable Formula One Management to work smarter and more securely, by hosting their essential IT infrastructure. As the Official Connectivity provider of Formula 1, Tata Communications connects Formula One Management circuits all over the world to their headquarters in the UK. This has given them a ten-fold speed increase in connectivity. We also enable remote operations for the live broadcast production that reduces trackside infrastructure, logistics and presence.
With a combination of Tata Communications' hosting and CDN services, FOM is able to publish and distribute rich website content whether video or images to the millions of fans who visit Formula1.com. We ensure that these fans have a seamless experience and quick access to race statistics and content on the website.
What benefit does F1® bring to your company?
Our partnership with FOM is all about growth, new innovations, and thrilling experiences. With this association, both Formula1® and Tata Communications unite to deliver an enhanced experience to the fan base every single time.
Even a split-second delay in data transfer during a Formula 1® race can prove to be fatal. With businesses increasingly becoming global and cutting edge technology coming into play, we have learnt a lot from our association with Formula 1®. This association with Formula 1® has helped us to showcase our capability to offer F1® innovative services that enable them to carry out their races seamlessly. We often tell our customers that if we can do it for Formula One, we can do it for anyone.
Some of the lessons from our association with Formula 1®, that we apply to some of our enterprise customers are:
Full-speed service from afar: Our technology deployment at Formula 1® has developed at a very impressive speed. As our enterprise customers expand globally, we have realised we need reliable technology solutions, regardless of location. Even if the race is on the other side of the world, our "teams" on and off the track need to be connected.
Human collaboration is key: A great example of teamwork is seen in the way how the engineers, sitting at the pit wall analyse the data to send to the driver, who tweaks critical race strategies in the meanwhile. We also understood that across any time zone around world, the perfect mix of training, motivation, and leadership can ignite enterprise teams to perform together with the same collaboration to produce results that help companies thrive in the midst of calm or chaos.
Driving innovation from start to finish: When we first teamed up with Formula 1®, we took full advantage of key technology trends in racing, and we are constantly looking at the road ahead, scanning the horizon for new opportunities and looking around the corner at potential twists and turns.
How long does it take you to set up a communications centre at the track? How many personnel are involved in the operations of the centre?
Communications comes into play at all levels before, during and after a Formula 1® race. Tata Communications plays a key role in setting up the sport's trackside operations. We set up a trackside data centre at each race location in two-three days and dismantle it in just six hours, a process that would traditionally take weeks. It's the equivalent of changing a tyre in under four seconds. A dedicated race implementation team is present on every race weekend, dealing with the unpredictable deliverables every day. Detailed planning and on-ground flexibility ensure that connections are always available, avoiding even a second of downtime for these essential networks.
What kind of traffic does F1® website attract and how does Tata Communications manages it?
Formula 1® is one of the world's most watched annual sporting series. By differentiating live content on televised and digital mediums, F1.com and the Official F1® App attract millions of users every race weekend. Since 2013, there have been over 127 million unique users on F1.com. On peak days of a typical race weekend, Tata Communications' Web Hosting and Content Delivery Networks have supported up to 5 million page views on F1.com without a glitch. Superfast connectivity ensures a digital experience of the highest quality connecting tens of millions of F1 fans around the world.
The massive amount of data - vehicle telemetry, timing, geo-location and video transmission among others - is processed through an impressive track-side data centre connecting a remote operations centre in the UK, from up to 21 global locations this last season, for the production and distribution of the International Live Feed over Tata Communications' global tier-one fibre network.
In reference to F1®, what kind of media platforms, besides the website, does Tata Communications provide services to?
Tata Communications provides connectivity to more than 240 countries and territories. We work with 20+ broadcasters to deliver F1® to fans across the globe. Tata Communications' robust and super-fast fibre optic cable ring ensures seamless connectivity at each race event, as well as to Formula One®.
This year, Tata Communications partnered with Sky, to deliver the live broadcast feeds of all 21 Grands Prix starting with the 2016 FIA Formula One World ChampionshipTM season over our global superfast fibre network. We have also successfully tested Ultra High Definition (UHD) broadcasting, live in action at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix. Sky will now show all races of the 2017 season in UHD.
Last year, Tata Communications was chosen by Formula One Management to provide broadcast services for the GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup racing series.
In 2014, Chello DMC selected Tata Communications to supply live Formula 1® video feeds via Tata Communications' wholly-owned fibre network to be used for the channel's season long race coverage. Six live feeds and an additional unilateral feed from all 19 races distributed via the fibre network for broadcast on the Sport1 channels and via the Sport1 app.
You've been associated with F1® since 2012? How has the relationship grown? What challenges did you encounter while trying to meet the requirements of F1®?
Over the years, our partnership with Formula 1® has grown to cover the entire ecosystem - from the company that runs the sport, to the team that wins the sport, to the range of broadcasters who take the sport to the fans globally. Our focus remains on providing the best connectivity and collaboration services with the best service level agreements, just as we would for any other customer.
Formula 1® is a sport where every millisecond matters. In such a highly competitive environment there can be no compromise on experiencing the race action, especially for the millions of fans across the world. Hence, the challenge is to offer a reliable backbone for connectivity to deliver the race action in high quality without any disruption, be it on ground or through Formula1.com.
A single season includes diverse global race locations. This means that every new race location comes with its separate set of complexities, be it connectivity routes or last miles delivery at remote locations. As the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1®, Tata Communications delivers high speed connectivity solution across different race locations, allowing vital real-time content to travel quickly and reliably. For seamless interoperability and remote operations, Tata Communications also connects each race location to the Formula One Management's Remote Operations Centre in UK, which enables key broadcast and production operations in real-time as the action happens.
Furthermore, with changing preferences and the growth of the digital medium, many fans choose to experience the sport through the Formula 1 website. Every race weekend, Formula1.com attracts over 7 million fans, who expect an engaging and immersive experience through enriched and enhanced race content across multiple devices.
Managing the huge surge in website traffic, requires a scalable hosting platform that can simultaneously allow millions of fans to experience the excitement of the sport seamlessly. Formula1.com is hosted on a managed redundant hosting platform at Tata Communications' data centres. This is done in order to support dynamic failover features for redundancy. The delivery network is deployed for Formula1.com globally via the Tata Communications' Content Delivery Network. It is also the first time ever that the network and content distribution for Formula1.com has been brought together on one resilient platform.
In the fast-paced and continuously evolving technology landscape that is Formula 1, it is imperative to stay one step ahead and that is precisely what Tata Communications bets on to provide seamless connectivity and cloud services to the sport, race after race.
10. Describe your partnership with the Petronas Mercedes-AMG F1® team. What is your role?
In 2013, Tata Communications partnered with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS to become the 'Official Managed Connectivity Supplier' to the team, delivering world-class trackside connectivity for the team at all Formula 1® race locations using the Tata Communications global network.
Tata Communications' superior managed connectivity solutions from the pit wall back to the team's headquarters in Brackley, UK, enable a team of dedicated specialists to analyse abundant amounts of real-time-generated data remotely and faster than ever before to contribute to vital decisions live on race day. In a sport governed by split-second decision- making this translates into a critical competitive advantage.
Tata Communications enables:
3x faster connectivity enabling faster rich data transfer than ever before
1 unicast sent to the factory from 5 HD video feeds of the pit garage at every race location
2 way real-time data analysis and decision-making
Global live data transfer capability in under a quarter of a second
Why did you choose to partner with Mercedes and vice versa? Are you looking to partner with other F1® teams as well?
The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team and Tata Communications are both dedicated to outpacing their competitors putting innovation, which is in their DNA to play. 2013 was an important year of change for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team. With new leadership and a new driver, the team was getting ready to meet the challenges of the ever-changing F1® landscape. Tata Communications' partnership with the team has powered innovation and delivered a real competitive advantage to the team on the track, with the role of data increasing in importance for F1® teams.
Tata Communications' network enables data from over 150 of sensors on Silver Arrow cars to be transferred in less than a quarter of a second from an F1 track anywhere in the world to the factory in the UK and vice versa. The rapid transfer of rich data gives the team the ability to share vital data, report issues and communicate between the trackside to the factory in real-time, improving speed, handling and stability.
We are constantly looking at innovating the services that we offer to Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team.
12. With the growth of digitisation, what unique challenges does Tata Communications face in order to meet F1®'s requirements?
Ans: We are only at the beginning of a huge growth phase in internet usage, so the technology must evolve rapidly. Internet adoption will surpass the halfway mark in 2018, when 51.1% of the world's population will go online, equating to 3.82 billion people . We are also seeing the diversification of traffic types as more content is consumed and more devices are also being connected to the internet constantly. All of this means that the network must evolve in a way that supports this demand for extra capacity, while providing a predictable and secure connection anywhere around in the world.
Being associated with a sport that's at the cutting edge of technology, we certainly expect new forms of technology to be deployed to the cars as well as the entire operational mechanics of the teams associated with the sport.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are some examples of few of the advancements in technology that could deliver quality experience for viewers. These applications are set to transform how people engage with each other and the world around them, making the exhilarating, high-pressure environment of Formula 1® the best place to explore the full potential of these technologies. Tata Communications partners with Formula One Management and The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team, to promote and reward connectivity innovation together through the F1® Connectivity Innovation Prize (FCIP).
FCIP is a global platform that engages international brainpower against the demanding backdrop of Formula 1® racing. The third season of the competition and the challenge this year looked to unleash the collective brainpower of F1® fans and technology enthusiasts worldwide to show how creative applications of VR and AR, underpinned by superfast connectivity, could boost F1® teams' competitiveness. The winning idea is a live, 360-degree virtual trackside experience that transports fans to the exhilarating world of a Grand Prix. The ultra-immersive VR application is enabled by a group of roaming commentators with wearable cameras, capturing the excitement of the trackside to make fans thousands of miles away feel like they are part of the action. The application also harnesses AR, encouraging fans to collect 'hidden stars' at the trackside, and enabling them to seamlessly glean additional insights on their favourite driver, team car, or anything else they see around them in the virtual Grand Prix environment.
These technology advancements immense, on the back of growing digitisation, has immense potential to transform the complete sporting experience and we are committed to work towards enabling it.
What are your plans for Tata Communications and F1®? Where do you think is this association heading towards?
F1® is a sport of extremes. It's the fastest, most technically advanced, and the world's most popular annual sporting series with over half a billion people watching the action each season.
Since 2012, as the Official Connectivity Provider of Formula 1®, as well as Official Web Hosting and Content Delivery Network Provider of Formula1.com, we have powered Formula 1® to seamlessly reach out to its tens of millions of fans worldwide with a complete end-to-end solution. F1® is known for being a test-bed for industries beyond the track, particularly consumer vehicles. It operates like a global business with operations across several countries in some of the most diverse and challenging locations. This offers a great environment for an organisation like ours, to test the capability to deliver a high speed, robust, scalable solution in a very challenging environment, in a very short time, and ensure it works consistently week on week.
It has been a rewarding journey with Formula One® since 2012 and we see this association only growing stronger in the years to come.
Team OD | 17 May 2018
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