The 101st Tour de France (NY Times, Wikipedia and Twitter), began on Saturday July 5, 2014 and continues until July 27, 2014.
The 21-stage race began in Yorkshire, U.K., and stretches across Europe including Spain and Belgium. The race spans a total of 3,664 kilometers (or approximately 2277 miles).
Some 3.5 billion people watch some part of the 4,700 hours of television coverage. It’s the most-watched sports event in the world after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Unlike the other two, the Tour de France does not stay put in a few stadiums.
Broadcasting live to more than 180 countries from 21 stages over the course of a month is one of the most difficult challenges in broadcasting. Almost 200 riders compete over huge distances, many of which snake up and down isolated mountain passes.
This year they have experimented with fitting small cameras to riders, even though the footage can only be accessed after the race. Virgin Media used Siklu’s tiny Gigabit 60GHz radio for backhauling WiFi hotspots in Leeds, England.
Orange, a French communications multinational supplied infrastructure for the event. Cycling fans can follow live each of the stages directly on their PCs via the Orange portal. There are lots of apps, of course, on the Google Play and Apple’s Appstore
Fans have been risking life and limb to snap a selfies at the 2014 Tour.
Comcast’s NBC is charging $4.99 a day for live coverage.
Every morning, 25 engineers start building a communications headquarters from scratch, based in four trucks that travel from town to town. One truck is for the press, the second for photographers, and the third for broadcasters. The fourth truck is the heart of the communications infrastructure for the world’s media. The Orange Event trucks connect fiber to the France Telecom network and via satellites.
The feed is sent to one of two identical trucks provided by Orange, which provides all the communications infrastructure for the Tour. It is piped into high-bandwidth fiber optic lines and sent back to France, from where it is beamed to 185 countries and broadcast live with a delay of less than a second. Networks can add their own commentary on top.
Orange in partnership with EuroMedia France (formerly SFP), manages the Tour’s TV broadcasting.
EuroMedia provides motorcycle cameras, helicopters and aircraft in order to ensure broadcast (especially in the mountains). Images from motorcycle cameras are transmitted via high-frequency links to helicopters flying at 600 meters altitude that then retransmit them to aircraft flying at 3000 meters.
The aircraft then broadcast the image to the town where the finish line is located, via 4 HF aerials mounted on a crane 50 meters up. Out of the 4 aerials, 2 are used exclusively to receive images, while the other 2 are used to coordinate helicopters and motorcycle cameras with the production team.
Coverage of the race inside the 1750 m long Croix-Rousse tunnel in Lyon was made possible thanks to the special receiver system installed inside the tunnel.
NBC has online coverage of the Tour de France. Live video is shown in the upper left, but one can toggle the video to full screen.
The text column on the right has frames showing the peloton and other rider groups and a curated, Twitter-like news feed. The graphic frame at the bottom has five optional modes.
Orange telecom customers can access exclusive content on their mobile phones and tablet. Orange launched LTE-A this month in select cities, utilizing carrier aggregation encompassing frequencies in the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands, which will provide downlink transmission speeds of up to 75Mbps (800MHz) and 150Mbps (2600MHz) respectively, to deliver a combined download rate of 225Mbps.
Orange is installing Ericsson RBS 6000 base stations in Paris, as well as in the south-west and north-east regions of France. Orange plans to deploy LTE-A in early 2015 in 14 of the most densely populated cities, and expand outward. Orange expects 4G roaming will be available across Orange’s European footprint by the end of 2014.
The announcement came on the back of the commercial launch of rival Bouygues Telecom’s LTE-A network in Lyon, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Vanves, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Malakoff and Rosny-sous-Bois in June. It aggregates frequencies in the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum bands. Residential users can access the LTE-A network using the Bbox Nomad mobile hotspot (above).
France is forecast to hit 10 million LTE connections within five years, accounting for close to one in eight of the country’s total connections by 2017.
More Tour de France news is available from Cycling News, BBC, ITV, Sky Sports, Reddit’s Page, NBC Facebook page and NBC’s $15 app. Digital Trends explains how to watch the 2014 Tour de France.