For the past 16 years, Comms Spec has proudly served as the exclusive provider of Radio Communications (“Comms”) services for both the Men’s and Women’s Tour of Britain events. These cycling tours are renowned for their dynamic, ever-moving nature, presenting unique communication challenges that demand a robust and reliable solution. Comms Spec has consistently risen to the occasion, ensuring seamless communication throughout these high-speed, multi-vehicle races.
Organising road tour events brings a set of inherent communication challenges. With no fixed location and ever-changing coverage areas as the tour progresses through active towns and villages, maintaining continuous contact is crucial, especially for safety reasons. Failure to provide reliable communication can pose risks to participants, spectators, and the public, making a resilient Comms system vital.
Comms Requirements for the Tour
Comms Spec’s task was multifaceted, encompassing various critical elements:
- Rolling Convoy Communications: Covering multiple cars and motorbikes.
- Multiple Channels: Including Radio Tour, Commissaire, and Organisation channels.
- Approximate Coverage Area: Extending 25 kilometres from the front to the back of the race.
- Radio Link to Finish Line: Ensuring connectivity back to the finish line.
- GPS Tracking: Deploying GPS tracking for convoy vehicles.
- Repeater and Handheld Radios: Providing communications for setup crews at both the start and finish lines.
- Live Feed Comms: Facilitating media personnel with live feed communications.
- In-Race Technical Support and Contingencies: Ensuring quick responses to any issues.
Why Choose Comms Spec?
Comms Spec stands out for several reasons:
- Off-the-Shelf Equipment: Utilising readily available commercial radio equipment.
- Cost-Effective Installation: Ensuring efficient installation with minimal disruption.
- Rapid Deployment: Fitting comms equipment in a fleet of 28 to 30 vehicles within just three days.
- Vehicle Versatility: Efficiently serving various vehicle types and makes, including hatchbacks, saloons, ambulances, and vans.
- Innovative Solutions: Constantly adapting and innovating to meet evolving needs.
Our Unique Solution for Convoy Comms
To meet these complex requirements, Comms Spec designed and implemented a unique analogue system. This system featured repeater boosting in key vehicles, complemented by a resilient talk-through mechanism. This allowed users to seamlessly communicate with local radios if they fell out of repeater coverage range, without the need for external infrastructure, making it cost-effective.
Comms Spec’s expertise and solutions have earned the praise of the Sweetspot Group, the sports events and marketing company behind Britain’s biggest cycling races.
Comms Plan for the Convoy
Understanding the limitations of analogue systems for continuous communication, Comms Spec devised a tailored solution. Radio Tour comms were only necessary as the race approached the finish line. Thus, a “receive-only” mobile radio was installed in a double-decker bus at the finish line, connected to a high-powered collinear on-roof antenna. This setup enabled communication to be picked up as the Tour came within 25 kilometres of the finish line.
Additionally, an aircraft flying with the event’s media team provided live communication. Comms Spec deployed a repeater on the aircraft, mirroring the ground repeater system to ensure uninterrupted communication throughout the Tour. This collaboration with the media company further enhanced service and client satisfaction.
GPS Tracking for Convoy Vehicles
To monitor convoy vehicle positions and track the convoy’s progress, Comms Spec implemented GPS tracking. Simple sim-based GPS trackers were installed in convoy vehicles, powered by USB and positioned near windows for optimal connectivity. This real-time information was accessible online with login credentials, offering a cost-effective and easily managed solution.
Start-Line and Finish-Line Race Crews
Comms Spec ensured that race crews responsible for setting up the start and finish lines had reliable communication. Handheld radios were provided with local coverage at the start line and extended coverage up to the ‘1k To Go’ mark at the finish line. The finish line setup also included a repeater deployed in the town centre.
For these critical roles, Comms Spec supplied top-of-the-range professional Motorola digital UHF radios with encryption, spare batteries, leather cases, straps, and 6-way chargers.
Live Feed to the Race Website
In 2023, a new request emerged: a live feed of the Radio Tour channel to the race website. Comms Spec embraced this challenge with a simple yet effective solution:
- Audio was extracted from a handheld radio listening to one of the radio tour repeaters.
- The audio was fed into a tablet running a 4G multinetwork roaming data sim.
- The live feed was then streamed via a live streaming website, with a link provided to anyone needing access.
No additional infrastructure or equipment was required, showcasing Comms Spec’s adaptability and commitment to meeting evolving needs.
Race Comms Management
Throughout the Tour, two Comms vehicles were deployed to monitor communication usage, traffic patterns, and any issues. This allowed Comms Spec to continually refine their solution, ensuring it met the evolving requirements of the Tour.
Comms Car and Comms Van
Two key assets in Comms Spec’s strategy were the Comms Car and Comms Van:
- The Comms Car, located just behind the peloton, housed central repeaters, and the head engineer oversaw technical aspects and monitored transmission quality, interference, and GPS tracking.
- The Comms Van, positioned at the rear of the convoy, carried spare equipment, anticipating any unplanned eventualities.
Comms Spec implemented a robust inventory management system with a three-part failsafe approach, enabling them to track all radio equipment:
- Radios were labelled with numbers and allocations, and their locations were documented.
- Vehicles were tracked by location, registration plate, and car decal number.
- Motorbikes were linked to riders’ names at the start and finish.
Comms Spec’s 16-year partnership with the The Tour of Britain events stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to excellence. We have consistently provided reliable and innovative communication solutions, ensuring the safety and success of these dynamic road races.
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