NYC Transit enhances satellite communications capabilities

The New York City Transit agency has added 230 Iridium satellite service telephones to beef up its emergency communications and has installed a satellite repeater to enable indoor communications at its Manhattan headquarters.

The SatMAX repeater from Eagle Broadband Inc. of League City, Texas, was installed last week in anticipation of the Republican National Convention.

'The main motivation is that if primary communications systems are disrupted, they can still get their calls through' with Iridium telephones, said Randy Shapiro, Eagle's marketing vice president.

If telephone or power systems are knocked out, satellite service will remain available.

NYCT is the largest agency within the regional Metropolitan Transportation Authority and operates the city's bus and subway systems. It carries 2.2 billion riders a year, has 48,000 employees and has been tasked with securing the transit system during the convention. The convention has been designated a national special security event, making Homeland Security Department funding available for security technology.

NYCT is obtaining satellite service through World Communication Center Inc. of Chandler, Ariz., an Iridium service provider. Iridium uses a constellation of 66 low-Earth-orbit satellites to provide near-global coverage.

But because Iridium phones require a line-of-sight link to the satellites, they typically do not work well inside buildings. The SatMAX repeater acts as a hot spot, providing an indoor access point for the phones and relaying voice and data traffic to the satellites. These should keep headquarters officials in contact with workers in the field during emergencies.

The coverage area varies depending on the construction of a building but typically can support phones from 150 to 200 feet away. It supports multiple concurrent users.

'It requires some sophisticated amplification and filtering techniques,' to meet performance and regulatory requirements, Shapiro said.

Although SatMAX operates much like a WiFi access point, it costs considerably more. Depending on the configuration, the price ranges from $20,000 to $40,000.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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