In 2011, BAI Communications bought a majority stake in Transit Wireless who had the licence to design, build and operate the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s cellular and Wi-Fi network across the city’s underground subway station network.

The MTA wanted to provide connectivity for the passengers, the MTA communications, and emergency services, within the 110-year-old New York City Subway system.

The challenge: Aging system and harsh conditions
Despite being underground, the subway stations are considered an outdoor environment.The communications equipment has to withstand temperature fluctuations, water from daily station cleaning, vermin, and steel brake dust. In addition, the low ceilings and historical preservation areas within specific stations created strict regulations on where equipment could be placed and sometimes even how it looked.

New York City is the city that never sleeps and like the city itself, the subway system operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a result, Transit Wireless construction teams were limited to working only at night to limit the disturbance to the 5.6 million rides occurring daily.

The solution: a customised underground fibre network
Transit Wireless invested over US$300 million and partnered with industry vendors to design, build and operate a cellular and Wi-Fi network within the stations and a fibre network throughout the city.

The network covers an area of 243 square miles (with hundreds of miles of fibre optics) with five Data Centres (also known as Base Station Hotels), amounting to over 4,000 square miles of space that houses network equipment for Transit Wireless, all four major US wireless carriers, and public safety services.

The five Base Station Hotels are dispersed throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens in order to support stations within each respective borough and geographic locality.

The extensive fibre optic network that connects the Base Station Hotels to the subway station network has resulted in the installation of over 4,000 antenna connection points and 5,000 Wi-Fi access points. These elements are the basis of the network that supports passenger, transit and public safety communications needs.

The station build was finalised in December 2016, nearly two years ahead of the original plan, and came at no cost for MTA or New York City tax payers.

Today, Transit Wireless’ cellular network is used by all four major US wireless carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless – as well as public Wi-Fi connectivity across the underground subway stations.

The benefits: wireless applications for a connected city
The MTA and Transit Wireless worked together to deliver a seamless wireless communications experience for New York City residents and tourists alike. From the moment a passenger enters the subway station, their cellular device seamlessly connects to Transit Wireless’ network infrastructure. Upon emerging from the underground, users automatically switch back over to the carriers’ above ground network infrastructure.

Alternatively, within two clicks, passengers can also connect to the free public Wi-Fi network, ‘TransitWirelessWiFi’.

The Transit Wireless infrastructure has also been used connect 3,000 Help Point Intercom systems. It can be also be used for include to support IoT-powered device connections, Machine to Machine (M2M) communications, sensor connectivity, crowd heat mapping applications, and the development of new smart connected services, such as electronic fare payment.

Transit Wireless is a BAI Communications company.