BAI Canada CEO Details Plans to Connect Subway Commuters to Internet

by Istvan Fekete on June 12, 2014

As carriers continue to raise their data prices, Wi-Fi hotspots will become more and more valuable in the country. But BAI Canada has learned a lesson from its Australian parent company, which set up Wi-Fi networks in both Manhattan and Hong Kong, and already has a solution for Toronto in the works.

You may recall that BAI Canada recently won a 20-year contract to make wireless connectivity a reality in the TTC, and last year launched a platform-level Wi-Fi service at the two busiest stations in Toronto, St. George and Bloor/Yonge.

Since the prototype stage ended, the newly appointed BAI Canada CEO, Ken Ranger, has sat down with Mobilesyrup to talk about the company’s ambitious plans – the next two phases.

“We’ve have an amazing response,” says Ranger, who stepped up from the COO role he inhabited since March 2013. “[Since launching in December] there have been 170,000 unique devices connected to the network, with 1.5 million sessions,” a staggering number for a service, dubbed TConnect, that is not widely known. The ad-based service requires users to accept a standard terms & conditions clause followed by a short 15-second video, after which they are free to browse, tweet and chat for one hour before having to watch another. The model has become standard in public WiFi systems, popularized by the quick service favourites, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Ranger says that in May alone the system processed 2TB of data, a number set to increase as more riders become aware of the service’s availability.

As he points out, in the first phase, BAI plans to roll out the Wi-Fi services to all stations by 2017. “We like to under-promise and over-deliver”, says Ranger, referring to Apple’s traditional financial guidance.

When phase 1 is done, all stations will be wired for both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. Currently, BAI is busy wiring the stations with fiber, which is then routed to switches and connected to antennas.

Phase 2 is to offer station-to-station connectivity through the tunnels, and according to Ranger, this will happen by 2019. Until then, Wi-Fi signals will end as riders leave the station.

Looking at the connected devices, Rangers reveals that the iPhone accounts for the majority (60%) of devices connecting the two available Wi-Fi networks on the TTC, while Android devices represent less than 40%. BlackBerry and others account for the rest.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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