Mesh Without Wires

February 24, 2011

Wi-Fi in Train Tunnels? There’s Mesh For That!

Filed under: Wireless backhaul,Wireless LAN,Wireless Mesh — kseniacoffman @ 9:06 am

Wi-Fi needs mesh, too

I covered infrastructure mobility as a unique mesh differentiator several times (see links below the post). Here’s another example of an infrastructure mobility project – to eliminate Wi-Fi blind spots and add bandwidth for Amtrak passengers traveling to and from New York City.

Contracted by Amtrak, Firetide’s integration partner OCLMedia deployed a dedicated wireless network that delivered a high-speed signal to trains traveling through the New York tunnels and when stopped at the New York Penn Station platforms. Previously, when an Acela Express train arrived in the tunnels under the East River and Hudson River, Wi-Fi coverage was interrupted due to a lack of cellular broadband signal.

No fiber? No problem!

OCLMedia installed Firetide mesh nodes in the 12 miles of tunnels and on the trains. Firetide’s infrastructure mobility architecture allows for uninterrupted connection between the fixed and mobile nodes, delivering seamless Wi-Fi for the passengers.

In contrast with previous infrastructure mobility projects we announced (Seoul Subway, Mumbai Metro), there was no fiber in the tunnels (or at least none that was available for the project). The fixed mesh nodes provided an alternative to installing fiber in the tunnels, which would have taken 2-3 years to deploy and the costs would have been five times as much as the wireless mesh solution. OCLMedia’s timeframe was 2-3 months for this project.

How does the network look like?

The mesh nodes (7000 series) are placed both in the tunnels, and in Penn Station itself. The spacing in the tunnels varies, because of of the varying ‘curvature’ of the tunnels. Mobility Controller (on the back end) manages high-speed mobility and roaming between meshes. The access points on the trains are not Firetide’s; they were already in place before the mesh project started. But for a greenfield installations, the access points are likely to be Firetide’s.

Amtrak network diagram: fixed and mobile mesh

Amtrak network diagram: fixed and mobile mesh (click to enlarge)

More to come?

The installation is part of the network that supports AmtrakConnect®, the free Wi-Fi service now installed on Amtrak Acela Express trains and coming later this year to Northeast Regional and other Amtrak trains.

This project shows that mesh technology provides a cost-effective alternative to fiber while infrastructure mobility adds unique capabilities, not possible with any other wireless or wired approach. Wireless mesh essentially extends wire-like connectivity all the way to the train.

See the announcement: Wireless Mesh Provides Wi-Fi Coverage For Passengers Through New York Penn Station

For more posts on infrastructure mobility, see:

By Ksenia Coffman – Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

/Amtrak Wi-Fi logo image via Amtrak


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