Canada is emblematic of the world’s expanding appetite for connectivity. We’re the fourth most-connected country in the world. Ninety- one percent of Canadians are using the Internet.1 Smartphone penetration here stands at 70%2 and we’re checking those phones up to 132 times a day.3 For those of us in the communications industry, it’s an exciting time as we work to meet the increasing consumer demand for wide-reaching, uninterrupted connectivity.

Here in Toronto, those demands are particularly high. In our tech-forward city, we expect to stay connected everywhere, including on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). It’s a challenge we’re ready to meet: BAI Communications has powered wireless networks in transportation systems around the world, so it’s time for BAI Canada to bring that seamless connectivity to our home city.

Building on global success

In New York City, Transit Wireless, a majority-owned BAI Communications company, partnered with the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) on an ambitious project to provide 1.8 billion annual riders with wireless connectivity in all of New York City’s 282 underground subway stations. The network’s footprint spans over 160 miles of fibre across the four boroughs served by the subway system.

Completed two years ahead of schedule, the network provides cellular connectivity across the four major national carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) and free TransitWirelessWiFi™. Right now, the public Wi-Fi network has seen strong pick-up from riders, averaging well over 400,000 Wi-Fi logins per weekday.

But New York is more than a great case study in individual connectivity. The network is the foundation for the implementation of broader initiatives, such as expansion of countdown clock screens in stations, and Help Point Kiosks that allow passengers on the platform to either call emergency services or speak directly with MTA personnel. And it’s proving to be fertile ground for large-scale, previously-unimagined collaborations, such as the Subway Library, a partnership between the MTA and New York Public Library in the summer of 2017 that offered riders access to an online library of e-books via our network login portal.

In fact, in cities across the globe, wireless connectivity is driving the trend towards a transit experience that’s smart, safe, fun and fluid. In Singapore, Wi-Fi data is being used to monitor and improve passenger flow.4 In Seoul, free Wi-Fi is available across the entire city, streamlining every experience from catching a train to parking a car.5 In Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR), the network’s Wi-Fi powers the MTR app, helping you plan your route down to the carriage and door you should enter for the fastest journey.6

Towards a seamlessly connected Toronto

So now it’s Toronto’s turn. BAI Canada recently completed its installation of free Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity in all TTC stations, and we are already powering 180,000 Wi-Fi sessions every weekday from 100,000 unique devices. The robust network provides users with more than 100 terabytes of data per month, the equivalent of 130 million digital photos.

Just as we’ve seen in New York and other global cities, the true potential of the network is its ability to grow from personal convenience to collaborative empowerment. BAI Canada worked with Metrolinx and the TTC to connect PRESTO, an electronic ticketing system that utilizes BAI’s network in the subway. We also collaborated with the TTC to create SafeTTC, or ‘See Something, Say Something,’ an application that allows the public to make live reports of misconduct and safety concerns, reassuring riders and supporting law enforcement.

It’s just the beginning. With our network in place, the TTC has enormous scope to augment and enhance the rider experience. Looking more broadly, we see limitless opportunities to extend that connectivity to the city’s businesses, government institutions, NGOs and more, helping Toronto to take its place among the world’s most innovative cities.

1 Digital in 2017: Global Overview here.
2NewZoo Global Mobile Market Report, April 2017
3DScout Smartphone Interaction Research Study, June 2016
4Towards a smarter, greener, and more inclusive public transportation system here.
5Every public place in Seoul will have free WifFi by 2017 here.
6MTR Mobile here.