News & Events

5G Coming to NYC Subways: A First…in the U.S.

For the second time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York selected Transit Wireless to fully roll out wireless connectivity across the NYC subway system. This time, 5G cellular wireless is part of the universal connectivity plan.

“Transit Wireless is already working with the mobile network operators [MNOs] to include 5G cellular connectivity, and 5G capability is part of our design goals for the expansion projects,” a company executive told EE Times.

The project includes building out cell service in tunnels between stations and deploying Wi-Fi in 191 above-ground subway stations, as well as 21 railway stops on Staten Island. This means that eventually all 472 stations, both above and below ground, will support cell and Wi-Fi connections.

The universal subway wireless connectivity plan will take about 10 years to complete, Transit Wireless said, adding: “Transit Wireless needs to install equipment and fiber in over 300 subway tunnels and over 200 above-ground stations, covering more than 400 track miles, all with as little disruption as possible for riders.”

In 2006, New York’s MTA tapped Transit Wireless to build out Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity in its underground stations. The company began with six connected stations in 2011, eventually delivering Wi-Fi and cellular connections in 279 subterranean stations across Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. This first phase of subway connectivity was completed in 2017.

The firm, in which shared-communications provider BAI Communications has a majority stake, already delivers underground connectivity by taking an RF signal from equipment deployed by one of the three big MNOs (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon). The gear is located in one of five Transit Wireless base-station hotels in New York City. The system then converts the wireless signal into an optical transmission, which is sent to the connected stations over fiber and then to the user’s device over Wi-Fi access points or antennas deployed on station platforms.

Today, mobile phones work in underground subway stations and sometimes tunnels in New York City.

The expanded network will incorporate thousands of neutral host cellular nodes and hundreds of miles of carrier-grade fiber, Transit Wireless said.

Asked if the company will need to extend its base-station hotel capacities as the system expands, Transit Wireless said the current base-station hotels “will continue to be utilized for the new services, and the space requirements at each of our current base-station hotels will be adjusted as needed to incorporate the expanded services. As the deployment of new technology evolves, benefits, such as smaller, more energy-efficient equipment, will be balanced with the needs for new equipment.”

The Big Apple will be one of the first metro systems to deliver 5G connectivity to customers underground.

Metro systems in Barcelona, Seoul, and New York have rolled out cellular and Wi-Fi in subways. London’s is set to go live in 2024.

By EETimes