NYC deploys wireless network for municipal employees

June 28th, 2008

Today’s New York Times has an article, With Wireless Network, City Agencies Have More Eyes in More Places, that describes a city wide wireless network that is operational and is expected to largely completed by the end of the summer.

“Locating vehicles is one of ways the Department of Sanitation and other city agencies are using the city’s new $500 million high-speed wireless secure data network, one of the largest of its kind in the world. The network, known as NYCWiN, was built by Northrop Grumman and by summer’s end will include about 400 cellular antennas covering 95 percent of the city.

The idea is for city agencies to use network-connected hand-held devices and tablet computers to increase efficiency and flexibility: Soon, police officers will be able to view photographs of suspects from their cars, fire chiefs will be able to watch live video of fires taken from traffic helicopters above, and housing inspectors will be capable of looking up building plans while on location.”

The article notes that other cities, including Oklahoma City, Tucson and Washington, are implementing similar wireless networks. One motivation is to provide a secure network for municipal workers who can not rely on commercial cellular networks which can become quickly overloaded in emergencies.

The Gotham Gazette has some information on the NYCWiN system’s specification:

The original specifications for the network called for it to support multiple, simultaneous transmission of full-motion video or large files from and to anywhere in the city, real-time tracking of all city vehicles and control of traffic lights, continuous monitoring of air and water purity, transmission of patient vital signs from ambulances to receiving hospitals, and reliable voice communications to back up radio and cell phone signals. … NYCWiN is not technically Wi-Fi, since it will use licensed spectrum. Wi-Fi operates over a portion of the airwaves that the Federal Communications Commission has designated as unlicensed, or open to the public for use with any approved device. Nevertheless, in non-emergency conditions, NYCWiN will have a lot of unused capacity that could help civic projects keep their bandwidth costs down, as Dana Spiegel suggested.”

According to Paul Cosgrave, NYCWiN is not a WI-FI or a WIMAX system but uses Universal Mobile Telecommunications System technology on the 2.5 GHz band to provide a broadband data network and IP services. The similar Washington DC system uses EV-DO and different frequency band, 700 MHz.

Wireless Blog reports that NYC is “using IPWireless technology for their city-wide safety network with each cell site providing in-building coverage up to 3 to 5 miles from the cell site in an urban setting. It operates in a single channel of 5 or 10MHz of spectrum and supports voice over IP with full QOS based on SIP.”