By Chinedu Nwosu
From August 29 to September 20, the Orange teams are on track to connect the Tour de France with the rest of the world for the 21st year running. Connecting the Tour was a remarkable technical challenge for the Orange teams, more than ever before due to the pandemic. The unrivalled technological prowess has been made possible with meticulous planning and anticipation that showcases Orange’s technical expertise.
An unconventional Tour de France due to the pandemic
The delayed start to the race due to the COVID-19 pandemic has required unparalleled responsiveness and innovation by the Orange teams. It was a colossal challenge: adapting all the technical infrastructure to connect the Tour across each stage of the competition in order to deliver on the race’s new dates.
Due to COVID-19, the complex mobile network fibre laying and expansion activities had to be completed in very tight time frames.
In addition to the network infrastructure, Orange has deployed a unique solution to remotely manage post-race press conferences this year. This solution uses Orange Fibre, which allows 4K UHD-quality video conferences. This system generates a speed of 30Mbits/s, linking the interview bus to the press room. This will allow the media to remotely interview the yellow jersey wearer and the day’s stage winner after the race from the press room.
Orange: committed to a community-focused race
This year, Orange is part of a device donation charity initiative in partnership with Ecosystem. During the Tour, the NGO Ecosystem will be organising the collection, decontamination and recycling of electronic devices. Orange has already been involved in a mobile phone collection and recycling programme since 2005. It has joined forces with this charity initiative by donating 3500 Mobicartes across the 35 towns and villages of the race. They will be given to disadvantaged people with limited access to telecommunications.
This initiative demonstrates Orange’s willingness to commit to digital inclusion, an increasingly important issue across the country, particularly in rural areas.
Orange continues to reinforce its network across the Tour
Tailored solutions will allow the race to be broadcast worldwide from the start and to ensure the competition runs smoothly each day. During the three-week race covering 3,470 km of roads, 76 Orange experts and technicians will join forces – sometimes in extreme conditions – to create a unique system, all in accordance with the health guidelines in force.
The Tour de France remains a formidable means of developing local digital infrastructure. Over more than 21 years, the networks deployed for the Tour de France have enhanced the permanent coverage for towns and some unique locations around France. This year 23 sites will benefit from a permanent fibre installation (twice the 2019 figure), and 35 towns in which the Tour passes and 207 towns within 10km of the Tour will receive 4G mobile network coverage.
Innovation at the heart of the Tour de France
Eight Wi-Fi networks will be deployed in each Tour de France village with an equivalent rate of 200MB/s able to handle more than 10,000 simultaneous connections.
In addition to the Wi-Fi in the technical areas and at each finish line, the Orange teams will perform Li-Fi demonstrations – a wireless optical network to transmit data via LED for a more secure, faster and more environmentally-friendly connection.
And to reinforce security for all, Orange will supply a video surveillance system and security operations centre with seven infrared HD cameras.
17km of fibre and 11km of civil engineering were required to network the sixth stage of the Tour de France at Mont Aigoual.