In our 21st century business environment, nothing stands still. People are on the move, working while traveling to meetings, to site visits, their homes, and of course, the office. Yet as people travel by car, airliner, on trains, subways, and other public transportation networks, they still rely on wireless connectivity to stay ahead of their workload and communicate with their co-workers. To do so, they rely on a nearly invisible layout of network data cabling and Wi-Fi stations which provide that connectivity to the public.
Wi-Fi networks on metropolitan buses, trains and subways are one of the last frontiers of service in a world that has become more interconnected than ever. To expand into that frontier, companies and municipalities work together to bring connectivity to the thousands who have come to rely on the availability of data to watch videos, check email, update reports, participate in conference calls or text a colleague while they are in a vehicle traveling at speeds of 60 mph or more. It requires an investment of money and infrastructure, but the benefits are unquestionable, especially for business travelers who need reliable access on the go. Woe to the municipality or state that lags behind when there are so many location choices for commercial sites.
To set up Network Data Cabling and Wiring for Wi-Fi for transportation networks, the city-private partnership needs to install fiber optic cables to transmit the data between substations. For buses and subways, which cover large areas of a city during their routes that means creating blanket service wherever it goes.
For an example of how these systems work in a subway, the New York subway system employs a company called Transit Wireless that maintains a series of base stations which generate radio signals for the four major wireless carriers, plus an ad-based broadband signal. Those radio signals are converted into optical signals and are transmitted through fiber-optic cables running through conduits throughout the system. The fiber-optic cables link all the base stations to subway stations, where the signals are beamed wirelessly in the tunnel spaces through a carefully calculated number of carefully-placed antennae. The rider simply sees a continuous free Wi-Fi signal which they can use to email that report the boss has been asking for, rather than leaving it on their laptop until they reach the office or a coffee shop network.
At over 3 million logins per month, it’s a monster task to keep everything working smoothly, while also paying attention to security and the rapidly changing range of network data cabling equipment and innovations that become available.
Many of the problems faced in expanding the wireless networks to new urban zones come from the aging of the our infrastructure. Few of America’s transportation systems were actually built during the information age, especially in the older urban corridors of the east coast. One hurdle faced by telecommunications companies today is finding a ways to install modern technological infrastructure in places that were laid out for horses and buggies (New York’s subway opened in 1904). Retrofitting some transportation channels is challenging, but for the most part succeeds in supplying a service we consider as important as the efficient travel on our commute.
“…contractors installing this technology have to account for things like extreme temperatures, potential water damage, metal dust from the train brakes, and the safety of passengers—not to mention the challenge of weaving their work around trains that almost never stop running. Because of the environmental factors like weather and metal dust, everything Transit Wireless installs in the stations needs to be sealed shut. It’s also why most of the hardware needs to be housed in climate-controlled rooms…”
Continuous access to a couple of bars of service or a Wi-Fi connection isn’t quite a reality in New York yet because installation would require slowdowns or stoppages of transit schedules in order to run cables safely. There are experiments concerning beaming signals a ridiculously long distance down the subway tunnels or installing some of the equipment on the cars themselves.
Installers of Network Data Cabling and Wiring also need to make sure that they are building Wi-Fi systems not just for now, but for the future. Each year, more and more people are connecting to the wireless hotspots in cities such as New York and they not only expect it to work — they may rely on it to get a project done on time for the office while shuttling around the city, like they planned on doing. Right now, there are 3G, 4G and LTE levels of connectivity, but what will be used in the year 2018, or 2020, or 2030? As the systems are built, the manufacturers and installers have to think about those questions. Many will still be running the wireless services years into the future, so it pays to build room for future capacity and connections into current projects.
As Wi-Fi on the go continues to expand into new cities, it will bring both challenges and successes as cities try to upgrade hundred-year-old bus and subway networks with modern technology, while the companies responsible plan for telecommunications we have not invented yet. The benefit for businesses, however, is clear even now.