Many of us who ride the city rails are all too familiar with lost signals once a train or subway hits the underground tunnel. Now, Amtrak customers of the New York City region no longer have to worry about losing coverage. To eliminate interrupted W-Fi signals on Amtrak Acela Express trains in the tunnels under the East River and Hudson River, systems Integrator OCLMedia installed a wireless mesh infrastructure from Firetide, Los Gatos, Calif., to establish connection from the mesh nodes on the train to the mesh nodes alongside the tunnel.
“Previously, Amtrak had no way to network the access points in the tunnels. They are now using mesh for both connecting mobile nodes to the fixed nodes, and alongside the tunnels as a fiber replacement,” explained Ksenia Coffman, senior marketing manager of Firetide. “This approach enabled Amtrak to complete this project in two to three months versus the two to three years it would have taken them to deploy with fiber. Plus, the connectivity between the moving train and the trackside infrastructure can only be done with mesh.” Previously, when a train entered a tunnel, Wi-Fi coverage was interrupted due to a lack of cellular broadband signal. 12 miles of tunnels in New York City are now covered by the wireless mesh solution.
The state of mesh
SD&I sat down with Firetide’s Ksenia Coffman to hear some of her thoughts on the current developments in wireless mesh infrastructures, challenges that integrators face and the future of it all.
How does Firetide differentiate themselves from some of the other wireless mesh providers in today’s market?
Coffman: Our infrastructure is more than just video mesh—it has been designed from the ground up to support large scale video, voice and data services. This year we are branching out to address the wireless LAN market and point-to-point market for simpler installations that don’t required the sophisticated designs of mesh. We deliver up to 300 Mbps capacity – in point-to-point configuration or as overall mesh capacity. Over multiple hops you get 100 to 150 Mbps and you can expand that virtually over unlimited territories. There is a lot of interest in infrastructure mobility, especially in transportation—the project with Amtrak is just one example of that.
What is the typical area range that a mesh network can cover?
Coffman: Wireless mesh is not subject to the same limitations as standard-based Wi-Fi access is; we have projects utilizing mesh links of over 20 miles. The capacity is also much higher—it is a completely different market compared to Wi-Fi access or cellular broadband. We’re talking about the networks that the user would own rather than relying on the service provider to provide the bandwidth. And even though there may be a perception that LTE is going to eliminate the need for mesh-type networks for video surveillance, that is not the case because the spectrum availability is fairly limited and if you want to own a big chunk of that spectrum for your video traffic, it will cost you a very hefty sum.
What would benefit a customer in choosing a private network versus a public network?
Coffman: It is a matter of control. On a private network, you know that you are the only user on that network and you are not subject to the service providers maintenance schedules. It’s a matter of renting versus owning—whether you are paying the cost over time or you are paying the one-time cost to build out the network that you amortize over time. You also have more control over physical or operational security of the network itself.
The integrators that Firetide works with, do they understand the capabilities and intricacies of wireless mesh versus that of fiber and cable?