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NJ Transit approves Cablevision’s Wi-Fi service on trains

Thu, 06/13/2013 - 12:42pm
Mike Robuck

Yesterday New Jersey Transit’s board put its stamp of approval on Cablevision’s plan to make its Wi-Fi services available to commuters on its trains.

The Wi-Fi access will be provided to NJ Transit customers via a dedicated, trackside Wi-Fi network, which NJ Transit said was the first of its kind in the nation. The agreement has a lifespan of 20 years and Cablevision will incur the cost of the network build out.

The Wi-Fi service is free to Cablevision’s subscribers, but the pricing structure for non-subscribers hasn’t been determined yet, according to a Cablevision spokeswoman.

Wi-Fi on the NJ Transit system will be implemented in phases. The initial phase will focus on outfitting major stations like Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal—which together serve more than 100,000 customers on a typical weekday on all transit modes—as well as Secaucus Junction, by the end of this year. 

Subsequent phases will include equipping additional train stations and ultimately rail cars by line.  The project is expected to be substantially complete near the end of 2016.

The agreement between Cablevision and NJ Transit has been percolating ever since the latter put out an RFP in 2010. Over the last several years, Cablevision has also been working with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to provide Wi-Fi to its commuter train users, but no deal has been announced.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is North America's largest transportation network, serving a population of 15.1 million people in the 5,000-square-mile area fanning out from New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut, according to its Website.

NJ Transit is the third largest transit system in the country with 164 rail stations, 61 light rail stations and more than 19,000 bus stops in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

Cablevision has conducted trials to demonstrate that Wi-Fi was technically sound abroad the commuter trains. One of the goals of the trials was to prove that Wi-Fi could operate at higher speeds and provide more bandwidth than cellular services.

The NJ Transit agreement includes the implementation and maintenance of a Wi-Fi network that allows Cablevision to offer wireless Internet service at rail and intermodal stations, on station platforms and onboard trains by installing a high-speed communications infrastructure. 

The infrastructure includes fiber optic cabling, wireless access points, antennas and related equipment in stations, along the right-of-way and onboard vehicles. Cablevision isn’t saying what vendors it’s using for the network build out. Ruckus Wireless lists Cablevision as one of its customers on the company’s website.

Cablevision has already deployed Wi-Fi access points at train platforms and train parking lots, which have been some of the cable operator’s top areas for Wi-Fi usage.

“This public-private partnership will enable NJ Transit to deliver on one of the top requests from our customers—wireless Internet access at stations and onboard trains,” said NJ Transit executive director James Weinstein.  “We are thrilled to work with Cablevision to further enhance the overall customer experience on our system by offering a dedicated Wi-Fi connection, which as designed will be the first of its kind here in the United States.”

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