By Billy D’Arcy Chief Executive Officer, BAI UK

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BAI Communications has installed high-speed wireless communications networks in metro rail environments around the world, so we’re well placed to shine a light on the kinds of issues that typically occur. With our networks up and running in cities like New York, Toronto and Hong Kong, we’re sharing the benefit of our experience, highlighting the key challenges encountered and, more importantly, the solutions we used to address them.

Don’t let dust put the brakes on progress

It’s no secret that underground railways are hostile environments to work in. Heat, humidity, and poor air quality are just some of the conditions that must be considered in the planning stages of any underground project.

When it comes to the issue of poor air quality, a major contributor is the brake dust released by friction between brake pads, wheels and rails. It’s a pervasive substance, and seems able to infiltrate almost every nook and cranny. What’s more, as it’s steel-based, the dust is conductive and can be significant threat to the smooth running of sensitive telecoms electronics.

Importance of design stage due diligence

Addressing the issue requires the use of equipment enclosures carefully designed to ensure they keep dust out. And it’s vital that transport authorities get this right – failing to do so could result in equipment failure, and even the risk of fire breaking out. Both instances have the potential to put human health in jeopardy so there really is no room for error.

Finding the right solution depends on project stakeholders doing their due diligence at the design stage. Transport authorities and their partners need to be confident that they can source the enclosures required to dust-proof network components and connections. This is not as easy as it sounds – in one North American metro project, we found that no existing enclosure design met all of our requirements. As a result, we designed our own enclosure, outsourcing manufacture and assembly to local companies.

The process took about a year to complete, but was ultimately worth it as the final product is visually and spatially unobtrusive, vandal and graffiti resistant, and, most important of all, future-proof and reliable. Today, years after installation, the enclosures remain dust resistant, something that isn’t always guaranteed when using existing enclosure designs.

Experience and innovation are key

Each underground system is a unique environment – any communications solutions must be tailored to address very different problems, whether that’s tight turns, heat exposure or dust pollution. Due to the need for bespoke solutions, choosing a technology partner with experience and a proven track record is a must. Further, as our need to design a new equipment enclosure shows, they must be able to innovate in the face of unexpected challenges. Ultimately, they need to employ an engineering approach to solving technical problems.

Read more

In this five-part series, we discuss the five challenges of building communications network in underground networks

  1. Part one: Dealing with dust
  2. Part two: Running complex projects without disrupting passengers
  3. Part three: Delivering communications in confined spaces
  4. Part four: Developing subterranean skill sets
  5. Part five: Aligning transport and telecom business models