BAI Communications, the global infrastructure provider, in its Connectivity outlook report 2020 titled: “Transport and connectivity: smarter infrastructure for a smarter city” shows strong support among commuters for advanced reliable wireless communications on metro transit systems.
BAI is a transportation communications infrastructure specialist. The company operates as a neutral host providing cellular and WiFi connectivity for public transit authorities such as New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority through its Transit Wireless subsidiary and the Toronto Transit Commission.
In April, BAI surveyed over 2,400 rail users in five global cities (New York City, Toronto, Hong Kong, London, Sydney) asking about the state of metro transportation, connectivity, and its role in the future of their city.
“The main takeaway is that there is widespread interest in wireless connectivity. Rail users want more connectivity, so the need for infrastructure is greater” says BAI Chief Strategy Officer Justin Berger. “We are sharing the published report with the regional transit operators, local authorities and the wireless carriers, helping them put the results into context for their cities. Commuters are interested in smarter, safer and more efficient transportation in their metro areas.”
The report highlighted three main themes.
First, advanced network infrastructure is key to a smart city. “Smart transit is a piece of the overall smart city concept, IoT solutions don’t stop at the subway,” added Berger.
Commuters want advanced wireless systems such as 4G LTE and 5G to deliver faster and more reliable connectivity both above ground and underground. On this point, 93 percent responded that they would support transit systems that use connectivity to reduce commute times, while 95 percent said they would be more likely to use the transit system in their city if technology-enabled solutions were implemented.
Second, data driven services make transportation safer, smarter, and more efficient.
Among respondents, 91 percent said they are at least somewhat comfortable with receiving tailored alerts that could streamline intermodal transfers, provide information to passengers with special needs and advise on optimal seating arrangements and social distancing based on platform and train car occupancy levels. That same proportion voiced support for government investment in new and reliable wireless infrastructure.
Third, connectivity gives citizens control over their time, their work, and their wellbeing.
People want their journeys to be quick and time-efficient, while expecting to remain connected. Reliable connectivity can boost public transport usage especially with data-enabled personalized services such as contactless ticketing, passenger tracking, environmental monitoring, platform and train car management, and live service updates. Over 85 percent of respondents support government investment in advanced wireless technologies to provide rail users with such services and enhanced security.
“It really gets down to use cases,” says Dean Bubley, a wireless technology analyst and consultant who reviewed the BAI report. “Consumers with smartphones will connect with public networks, so the transit system must support all wireless carriers along with WiFi and private network systems. People use transit apps for commuting as well as myriad other apps for work and entertainment. On the other end, public safety communication becomes a priority especially in emergencies or a pandemic. Then there is a middle tier for the transit workers who use dedicated wireless systems to do their jobs and to flag security alerts.”
Bubley points out that funding these projects is an issue and they take time to deploy because of the requisite multi-organizational coordination even with public support for more government funding for these infrastructure projects.
In big transit projects, BAI adopts a neutral host role and shares in the wireless system revenue with the transit operators. The company has installed and operates a distributed antenna system (DAS) in both the Toronto and New York City transit systems.
The DAS infrastructure comprises “base station hotels” where each mobile network operators’ RF equipment connects to the BAI Canada and Transit Wireless head end units, respectively.
The headend combines multiple 3G, 4G LTE and soon 5G RF signals into an optical signal that is transmitted over a single fiber to the specific subway station. There is at least one dedicated headend unit per station at the base station hotel.
At each subway station, a DAS remote optical unit converts the signal from optical back to RF, which is then amplified and broadcast through the passive RF antennas installed throughout the public areas of the station. Between stations, BAI installs a RF radiating cable (also known as the Leaky Feeder) within the tunnel to provide cellular connectivity to passengers while traveling onboard the train.
by John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor
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