Wireless World

Sandy Likely to Delay Subway Wireless Rollout

Pencil it in for the end of January
screen shot 2012 11 01 at 5 33 05 pm Sandy Likely to Delay Subway Wireless Rollout

Not anymore.

Bits and pieces of the New York City subway system are slowly coming back online–and not a moment too soon. But given that many tunnels took a good dousing in the storm, we couldn’t help but wonder about the fate of the MTA’s plan to roll out wireless access to many more subway stations by the end of the year. And yes, it turns out we’ll have to wait a little longer to receive emails while idling in the bowels of Times Square.

“We anticipate certainly that the storm will delay the completion of the 30 [new] stations into the first part of next year,” TransitWireless CEO William Bayne told Betabeat earlier today.

Mr. Bayne’s company is responsible for design, construction and maintenance of the subway’s wireless system. (Boingo handles the customer experience.) As of this September, six stations were already wired, and the original goal was to have the next batch–most of them on the West Side, including Times Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center–wired and working by the end of the year. Thanks to Sandy, it’s looking more like the end of January.

That timetable isn’t a sure thing, either. Right now, the wireless initiative isn’t exactly priority No. 1 for the MTA. “We don’t have exact direction yet from New York City Transit, because they’re involved with the massive disaster recovery,” explained Mr. Bayne.

“New York City Transit has obviously put a moratorium on construction until further notice, until they can recover the network,” he added.

The company is rebuilding its schedule, and then sometime later next week, they’ll sit down with the MTA and validate the new one. They’re assuming a couple of weeks’ loss, but it all depends on when they can get back underground. “All that is very tentative right now,” Mr. Bayne emphasized.

But Mr. Bayne is cautiously optimistic about the fate of the existing six stations–even though they are all south of 23rd and well within the flood zone. “Up until all the power was shut down in the stations, the equipment was running perfectly,” he said. TransitWireless hasn’t yet been able to enter the stations and inspect the damage, but even if they were flooded, there’s still reason to believe they can be repaired with minimal fuss. “Our equipment was designed to the highest environmental standard that is deployed by the telecommunications industry,” Mr. Bayne said.

“We’re optimistic the robust design of the existing equipment survived the storm, but we need to validate that with physical inspections over the next couple of days,” he added.

The good news is, we’ll all be too grateful for the return of the trains themselves to gripe about the missing wifi.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com