By Billy D’Arcy Chief Executive Officer, BAI UK

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We now come to the fifth and final post of my blog series exploring the top five challenges of providing wireless service in underground environments. To complete the story, I am moving away from the physical environment to the business environments that telecommunication firms and rail operators work within.

Keeping pace

The rail industry, both inter-city and metro, is characterised by the huge investments it makes in its infrastructure. Rail systems and rolling stock will often remain in service for decades, and trains are typically purchased on a 30-year cycle.

In stark contrast, the telecom industry is incredibly fast paced, driven by the ever-accelerating rate of technology development and significantly shorter system lifecycles. Transport authorities are used to ensuring spare parts for trains and infrastructure are available for decades, buying in bulk and investing in the space required to store them. This kind of long-term strategy, however, isn’t always appropriate for the telecoms sector, where technology generations change several times over such a period.

Further, consideration should be given to the business models both employ. Rail authorities tend to be monolithic, taking on the bulk of the responsibility for infrastructure and operations. The telecom industry, on the other hand, is more commonly built on partnerships, involving a variety of stakeholders with different specialisms.

Hearts and minds

Marrying these philosophies can mean a change in approach. While transport authorities work in partner-based relationships, telco providers need to work within the restrictions of rail timetables and the established structures of a transport authority that is primarily focused on providing passengers with a reliable, safe transport service.

Taking the time to develop relationships between key personnel at the transport authority and the telco provider, as well as other stakeholders can help streamline processes. For example, guaranteeing quick and easy access to trackside areas to ensure the partner can work with the flexibility and efficiency required for next generation telecom deployment.

Working in partnership

BAI Communications and its affiliates have a wealth of experience working with transport authorities around the world, establishing processes that ensure the rapid deployment of high-quality telecom infrastructure.

Transit Wireless, a BAI majority-owned company, provides a good example of this. A trusted partner of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), it has played a key role in coordinating the involvement of mobile operators, even brokering meetings between these competing companies to ensure effective coordination.

The benefits of this effort were realised when the MTA needed to accelerate rollout of mobile connectivity in the New York City Subway. By pulling all parties together to collaboratively agree a solution, Transit Wireless was able to help complete the installation an entire two years ahead of schedule.

Seamless collaboration

Both rail and telco providers have a vested interest in improving connectivity across their networks and, as the partnership between Transit Wireless and the MTA shows, with commitment from both sides, it is achievable. At BAI Communications, we employ the right people with the skills and experience to work closely with transport authorities and mobile operator personnel at all levels. This then ensures we provide all the support the authority needs as it strives to bring the benefits of the latest telecoms technology to its passengers.

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