If We Can Do It For Formula One, We Can Do It For Anybody — Mehul Kapadia, VP, Tata Communications

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Formula One is by far the most technologically advanced motorsport in the planet. The cars are fast, and so is transmitted data between cars, drivers, and teams. Communication is key, and is provided by Tata Communications.

So how is done? How secure is it, and most of all, why did Tata Communications chose Formula One to partner with? We had an exclusive interview with Mehul Kapadia, the Vice President of F1 Business at Tata Communications and here is what he had to say.

formula one mehul kapadia interview

Why did you chose to partner with Formula One? And when did the association start?

Formula One is a sport of extremes — it is fastest, most technologically advanced, and the world's most popular annual sporting events. The sport has over half a billion viewership globally. Every tenth of a second defines the difference between winning and losing. Superior connectivity and content delivery networks are critical components in the quest to win world championships.

Our association with Formula 1 started in 2012 when Tata Communications was selected by Formula One Management as the Official Connectivity Provider for the sport, as well as Official Web Hosting and Content Delivery Network Provider. To provide end-to-end solution, it involves setting up a trackside operations centre at each race location in two days and dismantling it in just three hours, a process that would traditionally take weeks.

The association with F1 is also a capability showcase for us. It is about truly being able to deliver critical services and saying to our customers that if we can do this for Formula 1, we can do it for anyone. It is also a learning experience for us.

How do you keep the partnership going?

Tata Communications has extended its footprint within the Formula One ecosystem and also provides connectivity to Mercedes AMG Petronas, broadcast services to Chello DMC, Red Bull Media House, and GP2, GP3, and Porsche Supercup racing series. On the innovation front, Tata Communications is working on the next phase in this evolution through the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize (FCIP), a global platform engaging international brainpower to find the next innovation to change the face of F1.

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.

What kind of services do you provide for Formula One?

Tata Communications has enabled innovations across multiple spheres of the business of Formula One Management (FOM). Connecting FOM circuits and offices all over the world on Tata Communications' network, has itself resulted in an initial tenfold speed increase.

Tata provides connectivity to more than 240 countries and territories. This aligns perfectly with Formula One, whose races take place all over the world – sometimes in remote and challenging locations. Tata Communications' robust and super-fast fibre optic cable ring ensures seamless connectivity at each race event, as well as to Formula One.

With regards to the connectivity services, 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.

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

How has the partnership with Formula One helped both companies?

All collaborations are about growth, new innovations, and thrilling experiences. A split second of data transfer delay 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 One.

This association with Formula 1 acts as a capability showcase. We offer innovative services for F1 that enable them to carry out all their races seamlessly. We often tell our customers that if we can do it for Formula One, we can do it for anyone. Over the past three years, our technology development with Formula One has been very impressive.

We provide the Formula One Management with a remote operations centre in Biggin Hill, powering live remote connectivity to feeds from the trackside. For example, during the Singapore grand prix, production teams at the operations centre will have access to multi-view video feeds for raw footage and a reverse data path, allowing them to operate a robotic trackside camera for the best possible race coverage.

The centre is paving the way for future innovation in the way the sport is filmed, viewed and enjoyed. It also speaks to today's global economy where remote operations are essential whether you're racing cars, servicing cell phone grids, or managing security systems. We at Tata Communications have also learnt a lot about teamwork.

How does Formula One help your company from an industry point of view, given the fact that they are two different industries?

Formula One operates like a global business with operations across 21 countries and 5 continents in some of the most diverse and challenging locations. It is also known for being a test-bed for industries beyond the track, particularly consumer vehicles. It 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 is also a hugely data driven sport and involves capturing, transmitting and analysing large volumes of data in real time. This makes it a great place to deploy and test a wide range of technologies for Tata Communications.

Is communication only between a car and the team at the pit or is it relayed anywhere else?

Communications comes into play at all levels during a Formula One race, as well as before and after the race itself. Tata Communications plays a key role in setting up trackside operations. To elaborate, temporary 100Mb MPLS circuits are installed, configured, and tested at each location in just one week.

A dedicated race implementation team is present on every race weekend, dealing with the unpredictable and ensuring delivery every day. Detailed planning and on-the-ground flexibility ensure that connections are always available, avoiding even a second of downtime for these essential networks. We also have a remote operations center in Biggin Hill, UK, powering live remote connectivity to feeds from the trackside.

Are the services provided by Tata Communications to Formula One used in any other platform?

During the course of the F1 season, our team covers over 1,24,000 miles annually, responding instantly to race-day issues and requests, including setting up a trackside data center at each race location. Tata Communications has reached 107 million unique users over the past two seasons, and we instantly share a vast amount of real-time data with up to 7 million simultaneous users during each race.

While some of these services are tweaked for the specific requirements that Formula One brings to the table, these are services we can and do offer enterprise customers across the board, depending on their own unique requirements.

Whether it's network services, voice, data, and mobility solutions; unified communications and collaboration tools, managed security, content management, media and entertainment services, or cloud and data centre solutions – we offer them to global enterprises and service providers.

Story first published: Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 17:27 [IST]
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