Plans for a 4G-enabled and 5G-ready telecommunications infrastructure network that will operate as a neutral host for fixed and mobile wireless communications operators in London could serve as an example for similar projects elsewhere, according to Igor Leprince, group chief executive officer of BAI Communications. The company obtained a 20-year concession from Transport for London to design, build and implement the network, he said. The network also will deliver citywide Wi-Fi and fiber-optic cable connectivity, Leprince said, in an interview with AGL eDigest.
“It’s probably the largest and most advanced infrastructure project of its type in the world,” he said, “and will fast-track London’s evolution as a smart city.”
The first phase of the project is a rollout of multicarrier infrastructure, allowing fixed and mobile operators to provide 4G mobile connectivity to customers all across the London Underground rapid transit system, which serves Greater London and parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. Included are all of the stations and all of the tunnels, coverage that Leprince said does not exist today. All stations and tunnels are due to have mobile coverage in four years. However, Leprince said that the project encompasses much more.
“It’s also a high-capacity fiber network running throughout the London Underground to enable the fiber service provider to provide full fiber connectivity to premises across the city,” he said. “That’s a big part of the project.” He said the project also includes the building of an emergency services network. “It’s a significant project for London’s citizens,” he said.
Transport for London has other assets that BAI Communications intends to use.
“TfL has tens of thousands of streetscape assets, including light poles and bus stops that can be used not only for small cells, 5G coverage and 5G capacity, but also for IoT 5G smart city use cases,” Leprince said. He said additional assets include the stations and the walls of the stations themselves.
BAI Communications provides neutral-host cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity for locations within the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) underground network of subway stations and private mobile radio, public safety, cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity across the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) underground and light rail systems. BAI Communications has majority ownership of Transit Wireless, which uses distributed antenna system (DAS) networks to provide cellular and Wi-Fi coverage in underground portions of the New York City Subway and includes a dedicated 4.9-GHz public safety band licensed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
In Toronto, Leprince said, BAI Communications has used analytics on foot-traffic data to anticipate the crowding through the system. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for such information “to make sure that you can monitor social distancing, passenger load and access to transport services,” he said. “It goes beyond that. There are also many use cases we’re doing for the MTA about safety, for example, the help point intercoms. We’re deploying more than 1,000 help point intercoms across more than 175 stations in New York.”
Commenting about additional uses for analytics, Leprince said, “In other parts of the world like Hong Kong, for example, we work more toward things like driverless train applications or real-time video surveillance, also some areas of infotainment, for example, live infotainment. There are many cases, but it is true that a lot of the use cases that we developed and put in place in the last year have been COVID-19-impacted, for sure.”
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, known as CPP Investments, owns 86 percent of BAI Communications, which has its official headquarters in Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia, and assets in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. The company grew from a business known as Broadcast Australia, which today delivers 126 million broadcast hours to 99 percent of the Australian population and which remains a significant part of the BAI Communications group of companies.
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.