UK sailing team picks BT to help beat Oracle at America’s Cup

BT is to supply a 4G wireless and fixed network to support the Land Rover BAR America’s Cup team, led by Olympian Ben Ainslie, in its bid to win the 35th America’s Cup

The Land Rover BAR sailing team (pictured above) has chosen BT to deliver networking support for its innovative virtual chase boat system as it targets the UK’s first ever America’s Cup win, with Team GB Olympian Ben Ainslie at the helm.

The 2017 running of the prestigious sailing event will take place in Bermuda this summer, and BT has signed onto the crew as a member of the Land Rover BAR team’s Technical Innovation Group, which also includes BAE Systems and PA Consulting.

The team will exploit BT’s strength in both fixed and mobile networking to deliver the virtual chase boat system, providing a military-grade 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network to transmit data and video footage from the team catamaran over BT’s high-speed global multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network to its mission control centre in Portsmouth.

The data collected will comprise information such as the vessel’s performance, sailing and weather conditions. It will be analysed and fed back to the crew to improve the team’s performance and hopefully give them the edge against defending champions Oracle Team USA.

“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,” said Ben Ainslie, who, prior to helping set up the Land Rover BAR team, also played a starring role in Oracle’s 2013 victory.

“Supported by BT, 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 and removes a powerboat from the water every sailing day, significantly reducing the team’s carbon footprint and increasing our efficiency. BT is helping us push forward in this area and it will be a vital development for us as a team,” added Ainslie.

“The virtual chase boat allows us to move the data assessment ashore. This removes a powerboat from the water every sailing day, significantly reducing the team’s carbon footprint and increasing our efficiency”
Ben Ainslie, Team GB Olympian and Land Rover BAR crew member

The private 4G band wireless system will deliver a high-speed, uncontended link which won’t be put at risk from the massive demands expected on local networks from spectators, said BT. It will operate on the 2043.5 MHz spectrum band in both the UK and Bermuda, which means it entirely avoids the 2.5GHz, and 5GHz frequencies generally used by 4G networks, and which can easily be disrupted by spray or fog because they are absorbed by water.

The high-performance, uncontended fixed backhaul network will also form a vital component, said BT CEO of technology and service operations, Howard Watson, because a number of cameras on the catamaran will be capturing footage in high definition, and BT expects to relay 16GB of uncompressed data, HD video, images and audio every day during the event.

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“We’re really excited to be combining our strengths in fixed and mobile networks to help Land Rover BAR power ahead as they compete to win the 35th America’s Cup,” said Watson.

“Our networking and big data expertise will help the teams on both sides of the Atlantic to deliver better performance from the boat. 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. We can’t wait to see the results, and everyone at BT wishes Land Rover BAR every success in the competition.”

BT will also lend Land Rover BAR big data analytics expertise to help the crew and support team to interpret the data in real time, and is creating an intelligent data hub for this purpose, with two BT big data experts embedded within the team itself.

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