You may be familiar with the term, ‘In a New York minute’ - it’s an imaginary unit of time that denotes the fervour and frenetic energy of the Big Apple. Or, as the famous U.S. talk show host Johnny Carson once described it, “it’s the time between one of the city’s traffic lights turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn.” Whether for business or entertainment, most New Yorkers expect non-stop connectivity, and this extends to time spent on the city’s subway. In response to passenger demands, in 2010 the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and then-Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, stated their plan to facilitate the deployment of Wi-Fi and cellular services in the subway, thus launching one of the most ambitious projects in transit telecommunications history.
“Over time, it became apparent that the high-performing network was an important selling point for partners and advertisers, opening up significant additional revenue opportunities."
The company tasked to complete this ambitious undertaking was Transit Wireless, who signed an exclusive 27-year contract with the MTA and New York City Transit Authority to design, build, finance and operate a multi-application high speed communications infrastructure for the subway system that spans 4 boroughs and 277 underground stations. The services provisioned included cellular service provided by the 4 major U.S. wireless carriers; a 4.9 GHz band for public safety; Wi-Fi for public, private, and business applications; and a range of other communications infrastructure elements.
A project of this scale and complexity cannot be accomplished alone, and Transit Wireless sought partners to help overcome its many challenges – including finding a network switch that could handle intense traffic density and work reliably in the harsh underground environment. This is where Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise joined the project. I spoke to Daniel Faurlin, Director, Product & Solutions Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise about how they overcame this particular challenge:
“Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise supplied switches in each of the New York City Transit Subway stations. In addition to its resistance to extreme temperatures, the OmniSwitch 6855 also has a high throughput, great port density, and can be remotely managed. With an eye on the future befitting a long-term contract, it has open standards that support multiple vendors, and its expandable nature is able to match the growth of the network and support the implementation of new HD displays, Help Point Intercoms and additional future developments. “
In 2011, Transit Wireless ( @transitwireless ) connected their first six stations in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan. Five years later in December 2016, the project was completed two years ahead of the original time frame, with full connections throughout all of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. All stations in the New York City underground subway now have cellular connectivity on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon networks, in addition to free public Wi-Fi connectivity.
As a result, the network has revolutionized the passenger experience. With an annual ridership of over 1.7 billion, the New York City underground now enables New Yorkers immediate access to cellular, Wi-Fi, and emergency 911 services – all through the Transit Wireless network.
“It’s been fantastic to see some of the developments since the network was first installed,” stated Rob Hemmerich (@robHemmerich) Director, Business Development at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise ( @ALUEnterprise ). “When this project began, we knew that the network had to be of the highest quality and provide a consistent experience for the passengers.
“Over time, it became apparent that the high-performing network was an important selling point for partners and advertisers, opening up significant additional revenue opportunities. For example, in Summer 2016, Penguin Random House offered passengers the opportunity to download short stories or book chapters to their mobile devices from the subway platform. It’s a great initiative and one that we are proud to support with our equipment.”
With demand growing at a tremendous rate, this is a fantastic example of industry collaboration and problem-solving, while delivering a service that passengers are demanding – in an efficient and financially sound manner.
Thomas McCarthy, Director of Network Operations, Transit Wireless concludes by telling us, “thanks to the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise solution, more than 10,000,000 users access free Wi-Fi in the New York subway every month. We’re constantly looking to move the technological needle forward and have plans to increase bandwidth and quality. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is proactive in proposing new products and solutions that will help us achieve these goals. We look forward to our continued collaboration and mutual success.”
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