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Ben Ainslie Racing’s Quest For America’s Cup Boosted By Private 4G Network In Bermuda

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BT builds fixed and wireless networks for Land Rover BAR, connecting the boat to bases in Portsmouth and Bermuda, saving costs and carbon footprint

Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing’s (BAR) quest to become the first ever British team to lift the America’s Cup in Bermuda later this year will be powered by fixed and 4G networks build by BT that promise to improve efficiency and reduce costs – both financial and environmental. 

The America’s Cup is described as the ‘Formula One of sailing’ as teams work to create the fastest, most technologically advanced catermerans.  

And like F1, there are huge teams supporting the sailors on the sea, many of whom will stay at the team’s base (located in Portsmouth), necessitating the need for communications.

Read More: How the IoT is boosting BAR’s America’s Cup Bid 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch Sir Ben Ainslie and team win Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth.

Internet of Boats 

BAR firmly subscribes to the ‘marginal gains’ philosophy – the belief that several small advantages will eventually result in a more significant advantage – which means no stone is being left unturned. And this involves turning to the Internet of Things (IoT)

Martin Whitmarsh, the team’s CEO and formerly of McLaren F1, told Silicon in an interview last year that there are more than 400 sensors on the boat providing data that can be used to improve boat construction and race strategy. 

“We’re looking at what the sailors are doing, what the systems are doing, the loads in the structures, the pressues; so we’re looking at all that information and how to correlate that with sea state, tide, wind etc,” he said in our interview. 

Dell EMC provides much of the IT infrastructure, such as networking, storage and hyperconverged infrastructure, and now BT is providing the telecoms capabilities that link the boat in the Great Sound to Bermuda and Portsmouth. 

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Private 4G network 

A military-grade 4G system is deployed on the boat to transmit boat data, local sailing and weather conditions to the team’s dual mission control rooms. This ‘Virtual Chase Boat’ eliminates the need for a support boat to be in the water – reducing costs and carbon emissions. 

Indeed, BAR is the only British sports team to achieve the ISO20121 international sustainability standard. 

“We collect massive amounts of data from the boat in real time during testing, and normally a Cup team would have engineers on the water to assess it, which is both expensive in resources and difficult at speeds of up to 60mph,” Ben Ainslie, team principal and skipper explained.  

“The development of the Virtual Chase Boat allows us to move the data assessment ashore and keep it in Portsmouth wherever we race in the world. This is a new operational model for our sport.” 

The LTE network uses private spectrum in the 2043.5MHz band, separate from commercial 4G services, which will be under significant strain from spectators. This is similar in principle to 5G network slicing, although this will ‘partitioning’ of cellular services will be done on the same spectrum. 

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Making history 

Furthermore, the private band is separate from the unlicenced airwaves used by Wi-Fi routers and can be disrupted by spray or fog because of water absorption. 

Once the data is back at base, a dedicated Ethernet network transports the data back to the UK. 

“Our networking and big data expertise will help the teams on both sides of the Atlantic to deliver better performance from the boat,” declared Howard Watson, CTO for BT Technology and Service Operations (TSO). “It’s all about our ability to help the support teams and crew to make better tactical decisions through access to better quality data in real time.” 

A British-based team has never won the America’s Cup, which was first held around the Isle of Wight in 1851. The defending champions are Team Oracle USA, whose remarkable comeback in San Francisco in 2013 was inspired by Ainslie himself. 

Oracle, are of course, bankrolled by the IT giant and its CEO Larry Ellison, who infamously skipped his keynote address at Oracle World so he could watch his team stage one of sport’s greatest ever recoveries. 

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