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NYC Subway Wireless No Cure for Ebola Fears

QUEENS, NY -- Court Square Subway Station -- "We're here to talk about Transit Wireless!"

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's chief spokesman, Adam Lisberg, is surrounded by reporters from local New York City TV stations. Ostensibly, the subway authority has got together this Thursday morning with Transit Wireless and the big four carriers to talk about how 4G and WiFi is now available in 76 stations around Manhattan and Queens.

What the throng of local TV reporters mostly want to know about, however, is how the agency will deal with Ebola if the deadly hemorrhagic fever hits NYC. Concerns about the disease have been intensified locally as a patient in nearby New Haven, Conn., is currently being checked for Ebola-like symptoms.

"The MTA has a policy in place for dealing with any kind of health crisis," Lisberg eventually said, saying that the agency is working with the "city and state" on Ebola. He didn't elaborate, however, suggesting that it wasn't useful to talk about and that agency wanted to avoid alarming the public if it wasn't necessary.

What the MTA and its partners had wanted to focus on was the technical achievement of deploying wireless networks in 76 of the most heavily trafficked stations in the New York subway system. The presentation portion of the event saw the agency and carriers focus on how wireless will serve increasing numbers of riders on the system.

"In a typical month over 47 million customers will experience connections," Bill Wheeler, director of special project development & planning, said in his opening remarks.

Transit Wireless is doing the heavy lifting in deploying distributed antenna systems (DAS) for 3G and 4G cellular connectivity and access points for WiFi access. "We're deploying one of the largest indoor wireless networks in the world," Transit Wireless CEO Bill Bayne says.

WiFi Fever
The MTA's Bill Wheeler and Transit Wireless CEO Bill Bayne field questions.
The MTA's Bill Wheeler and Transit Wireless CEO Bill Bayne field questions.

Eventually the underground network will cover 279 stations and 20 million square feet of public space. Transit Wireless has estimated it will deploy 7,000 multi-frequency distributed antennas (DAS) and 5,000 access points connected to the outside world by about 350 radio nodes and 125 miles of fiber optic cable.

The company rolls out fiber in phases from basestation hotels. Fiber strands run to remote optical units (ROU), which handle the final stage of conversion from optical to cellular and back via connections to the distributed antennas in the stations. The stands are connected directly to the WiFi access points. (See Transit Wireless: Unwiring the NYC Subway for more details on the project and a slideshow.)

One basestation hotel supports "roughly 60 stations," Transit Wireless Senior RF Engineer Sean Wang tells us. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Wireless all have equipment in the hotels now.

Transit Wireless has deployed basestation hotels in Chelsea and Queens to support Phase I and II of its rollout. The company has already opened one in the Bronx to support Phase III of its rollout.

Phase III of the project will cover 39 stations and include the Flushing Main Street Station in Queens, as well as stations in Lower Manhattan, West Harlem and Washington Heights. Major stations in Phase III include the Fulton Street Station, 125 Street Station and the new 34 Street 7 Station when it opens next year. Phase III is expected to be complete by spring 2015.

Phase IV will move up into the Bronx. The final 3 phases will cover the largest borough, Brooklyn, and are expected to be complete in 2017.

"At the end of the project we will have six basestation hotels in all," Transit Wireless CEO Baynes tells Light Reading.

The MTA's Lisberg had earlier told reporters that extending service to the tunnels, not just the stations, is "a long-term goal" for agency but there's no indication when that will happen yet.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

Joe Stanganelli 10/20/2014 | 12:58:53 AM
"Plan" This seems to be par for the course with other government entities and health organizations -- insistence that there is a cohesive plan in place but a refusal to talk about any details whatsoever.

This means at least one of two things:

1) The "plan" isn't much of one, and/or

2) The plan involves something hugely unpleasant for many to think about (e.g., mass quarantines).
Ariella 10/19/2014 | 10:30:31 AM
Re: 19th nervous breakdown/Gov weighs in/MH @mendyk Actually, a surgeon I was talking to suggested the opposite: having the US drop Ebola on ISIS. Of course, that won't happen.  Seriously, though, spearking as a doctor,  he was also criticial of how people do fly into the country and head straight to a hospital that is required to take the person in. 
DanJones 10/18/2014 | 7:33:22 PM
Re: 19th nervous breakdown The hysteria compared to the actual level of threat is ridiculous.
danielcawrey 10/17/2014 | 6:56:15 PM
Re: 19th nervous breakdown I think getting expanded access to data in transportation systems is really important. People want to be able to connect whereever they are, and they don't like disruptions in this. 

As for Ebola, I think this whole issue is getting overblown. I'm trying to block it out as much as I possibly can, to be honest with you. 
DanJones 10/17/2014 | 2:46:57 PM
Re: 19th nervous breakdown/Gov weighs in/MH Don't give them any ideas, man!
mendyk 10/17/2014 | 2:45:10 PM
Re: 19th nervous breakdown/Gov weighs in/MH Yes, but is ISIS getting set to launch solar-powered Ebola-laced drones targeted at major coffee houses in Williamsburg?
DanJones 10/17/2014 | 2:39:00 PM
Re: 19th nervous breakdown/Gov weighs in/MH "Governor Cuomo also announced that the Port Authority will coordinate procedure and practice between all State airports to ensure proper training is in place for airport personnel, and the Port Authority Police Department will be deploying two ambulances per shift at each of its airports to ensure the timely and safe transport of potential patients with Ebola. Additionally, the MTA will work to ensure that its employees have necessary equipment and training to protect themselves as well as subway, bus and commuter railroad customers. As part of the State's preparedness plan, unannounced drills currently occurring at hospitals and health care facilities will be expanded to college campuses as well as subway and mass transit areas. State agencies will continue to work together and make adjustments as necessary in the weeks and months to come in order to best protect New Yorkers." 


NY Gov Cuomo unveiled a preparedness plan this Friday morning


BTW, the Yale patient appears to be negative for Ebola.
mendyk 10/17/2014 | 2:02:51 PM
19th nervous breakdown It's nice to see that we haven't lost the ability to frighten the crap out of ourselves.
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