State chops down plan for 320 seven-story-tall WiFi towers along commuter-rail tracks

MassDOT reports it heard residents and elected officials who didn't like the idea of behemoth WiFi towers along commuter-rail tracks and has ordered the contractor building infrastructure for a new train-based WiFi network, BAI Communications, to come back with plans that use either existing utility poles or poles a lot shorter than 70 feet.



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    I think I'd put up with a

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    I think I'd put up with a 70ft tower in my neighborhood if it meant free wifi.

    Except it wouldn't be free

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    Part of the proposal is to offer some barebones "free" service but to charge a fee to anybody who wants to use it for anything useful.

    I've always wondered...

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    I've always wondered why they just didn't work a deal to reduce the number of cell company dead spots. I have a personal AT&T phone and a Verizon phone from work. During any Commuter Rail commute I have to switch between the two to get reception. I never had a good experience with the wifi so I stopped using it.

    To me it seems like adding wifi infrastructure was a bad idea, even with the small kickback.


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    That's what they are doing.... is filling in the dead spots and added capacity along the rail line.

    "Wifi" is misleading in Adam's article. Because the towers they want to put up do not provide wifi, but a cellular signal (to either Verizon or AT&T). The trains have these 'wireless gateways" that connect to a cellular connection (as a 4x4 or 8x8 stream connection) but also are a wireless device. Essentially the device is a wifi access point that allows for wifi clients to use its internet connection (in this case a cellular connection).

    There will be no wireless from the poles.. just regular cell data. This is why the towers are so high.

    Also, wifi would not work well on fast moving trains. 802.11x does not have the ability to jump access points quick enough (and do the handoff between). If you wanted to use 802.11, you would look at WISP or something else. Plus 802.11 long range would require the client (meaning YOUR laptop or cell phone) to have appropriate hardware use it. So you'd still need a 'gateway' inside the train for the clients.

    So it's definitely a cellular --> wifi type setup.

    PS - Most cellular companies do not own their towers, many lease it. Which is why this contractor is doing the work and not one specific provider.



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    Curious to know why they aren't using Mini-Cells instead on top of existing poles. Yeah the range is shorter, but it doesn't need a large ass tower like they proposed.

    Verizon is putting these all over the city for its *cough* *cough* FiOS roll out and unless you are looking up, you don't notice them.

    That sounds better than my

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    That sounds better than my idea. I was thinking they could save money by making just one 70 foot tower and mounting it on the train. Then all we would need to do is make all the bridges and tunnels 70 feet high so the train could go through them, and the residents would only see the tower as it chugged past a few times a day.


    railway easements are whole

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    railway easements are whole different creature; while it might be possible to do the small cells like on Boston streets, I would not be surprised if there were safety requirements like minimum clearance between poles that would make it unfeasible.

    Half the Height, Double the Number?

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    The standard 'tele

    The standard 'telephone pole' is about 35 feet above ground, or half the proposed 70 foot pole height.

    And, of course, the tops to existing poles are already utilized.

    So, "we're talking" at least double the number of poles.
    Probably not double the cost. But certainly higher.