Coffs Harbour, 8-11 September, The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) pits cars and drivers in a series of two, three or four-day events though some of the toughest, and most varied, conditions on the planet. Unsurprisingly, the series is widely regarded as the most challenging motorsport competition in the world.
Organisers have moved the event from the Northern Rivers area used in 2009 to the Coffs Coast region of New South Wales 300 kilometres away down the east coast and 535 kilometres north of Sydney.
The route, featured 26 special stages over a competitive distance of 369 kilometres, visiting the shires of Nambucca, Bellingen, Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley.
To successfully stage round 5 of the WRC Coffs City Harbour City Council (CHCC) committed to provide an IT&T environment capable of providing critical on course communications for race organisers and emergency services in addition to broadcast capacity essential for telecasting the event to a worldwide audience. To support these considerable communications needs CHCC retained wireless specialists Vertel to assist in the design, build and management of the network for duration of the event.
'Locally, so many people are clearly recognising that this is a unique opportunity for us to market the Coffs Coast to the world. It's going to be one of the biggest events ever staged in this part of Australia and will have a global audience of 53 million.' Coffs Harbour Council Councillor Keith Rhoades.*
Essential Communications and viewing
Ensuring the rally's preceded without incident for the driving teams, media partners, community and fans globally the WRC had some essential requirements in relation to a holistic network solution.
Communications and Coordination
To stage a world class motor event the organisers need communications of a standard capable of delivering 100% uptime over a large coverage area. It had to be able to manage large volumes of legacy and IP packet based Voice, Video and Data traffic, as well as multitude of devices including IP Telephony (IPT), Land Mobile Radio (Two-way) and specialist broadcast / video equipment. All these activities needed to be centrally managed and monitored, as well as have technical field support on call throughout the rally.
Solution: Vertel designed and deployed a 4 site, point to point microwave network, for the delivery of Layer 2 Ethernet including 20Mbps carrier grade unlimited internet and dedicated EVC's for IP Telephony. Built to global standards (MEF - Metro Ethernet Forum) the network was capable of managing real time applications including voice, data and broadcast traffic.
The solution was designed so communications segregated to specific areas depending on operation function. Race logistics were managed from Rally HQ in Opal Cove, vehicle service centre situated at the airport and designated onsite communications for media and emergency services (Police, fire and ambulance).
Driver and community safety are top priorities for the WRC and with excess of 85,000 visits to the region specifically to see the rally it was imperative that a robust onsite communications network was in place to support event logistics, security and emergency services needs.
Solution: By leveraging existing site infrastructure Vertel expanded the Council P25 APCO Land Mobile radio network to accommodate the Rally's requirements. This effectively provided 100% wide area coverage, secure and interoperable one-to-one and many-to-many communications. The solution included a range of portable (handheld) and mobile (in-vehicle) devices which were configured and installed to exact specifications.
As part of the design Vertel was able to provide the NSW Police backhaul from each site, enabling them to integrate their digital radio network with both Council network and their Newcastle command (VKG) centre.
Innovative broadcasting to a global audience
Over the 4 days it was estimated scenes from the Rally would be beamed to 136 countries and reached a total television audience of 53 million people.*** To deliver consistent and entertaining footage throughout the race the event broadcasters need access to a high speed network that would allow them to relay images back to facilities in Opal Cove for monitoring, editing and worldwide transmission.
Solution: North One Television utilised the Network to relay images throughout the event. This included the management of footage transmitted directly from cameras mount on Helicopters - giving fans and organisers a birds-eye view of all the action.
Continuity and Value
Like most WRC events the Australia leg took place over one intensive week and saw racing in extremely challenging, often remote locations. The reality is without essential quality communications services being in place the rally could not take place.
Solution: With a regional office in Coffs Harbour and an established network running from Sydney right through the mid North coast to Queensland, Vertel was able to provide access to the required carrier grade networks. Uniquely Vertel was able to deliver both the Layer 2 Ethernet and P25 APCO Land Mobile Radio services, including 24/7 network monitor and technical support throughout the rally.
'The feedback from the teams, manufacturers and drivers is extremely positive, North One (the WRC television production company) loved the Coffs Coast as a setting and the way the community embraced the rally." Rally Australia general manager Michael Masi**
By leveraging Vertel's established regional next generation network services the Council (on behalf of the WRC) maintained quality communications and viewing throughout the Rally. Working in partnership Vertel and the Coffs Council were able to cost effectively design and implement the required world class technologies and services capable of delivering essential localised and global communications and broadcasting for the duration of the event.
The Council avoided complexity and costs by working with a single supplier (Vertel) for all their temporary network requirements. The solution itself consisted of a fully managed virtual private network, high speed internet and public safety land mobile radio network
Built to global standards using carrier grade equipment and licensed spectrum the solution delivered a 100% coverage and uptime. The network incorporated a dedicated state-of-the-art P25 APCO two-way radio network which delivered secure, interoperability communications for participating public safety agencies. As a fully managed service the network was continuously monitored and supported 24/7.
As for the race itself 53 million race fans globally witnessed young Kiwi Hayden Paddon (Subaru, Michelin) and his co-driver John Kennard (NZL), make history in their Michelin-shod Subaru Impreza on the fifth round of the 2011 FIA Production car World Rally Championship at Rally Australia