Boingo’s connection to the Big Apple is strong.
“Our roots run deep in New York,” Boingo’s Senior Director of Carrier Services Mark Cusumano said. “Our Port Authority contract began in 1999. We’ve been active in the market ever since.”
Now, Cusumano, a Bronx native and 16-year company veteran, is helping write the next phase of Boingo’s New York City heritage, as the company equips the East Side Access point at Grand Central Terminal and the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road with commercial cellular and Wi-Fi capabilities in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“We take a lot of pride in building these networks and keeping New Yorkers connected,” Cusumano said. “These are major venues where there’s a lot of people traffic, and it’s very important for them to stay connected on their mobile device as they go through.”
Through a long-running partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Boingo’s tech also supports venues like John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Airports. There, Boingo not only continues laying the groundwork for future 5G capabilities but also helps support the contact-free services demanded by the pandemic-impacted era of travel.
“The way forward for travel requires a sharp focus on prevention measures and operational solutions where wireless technology is really the common denominator for powering a touchless passenger journey,” Stephanie Czaplicki, director of account management, said. “Boingo networks provide the connectivity solutions and technology necessary to power new contactless options like contactless entry and concessions.”
The collective end goal: to better the end user’s experience, said Northeast VP of Operation Rachel Rea.
“Boingo works very closely with device manufacturers and carrier partners to make sure that our networks are on the cutting-edge of technology to deliver a passenger experience that is superior — whether a mobile device is connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular network,” Rea said.
As they plug away at crucial locations, New York natives Cusumano, Czaplicki and Rea share how they’re keeping the City That Never Sleeps connected — and how they feel rewarded in the process.
Convergence is Key
On the Rails
Reliable connectivity is crucial while on the move. That’s why the team’s at work outfitting Grand Central’s East Side Access project with Boingo tech. The multi-billion dollar transit initiative will bring the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central, via a facility slated for completion in December 2022.
According to Cusumano, Wi-Fi and commercial cellular will encompass eight platforms, while commercial cellular will cover approximately 20 miles of running rail from Grand Central to Long Island City. A similar undertaking is underway at Boingo’s Long Island Rail Road project — specifically, the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, Jamaica Station in Queens and the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel that connects the two locations.
Cusumano: We’re carrying your phone conversation, your download or whatever you may be doing on your device once you go below ground through the new Long Island Rail Road space at Grand Central Terminal, with connections to the existing Metro-North railroad spaces. We’re also covering all of the new East Side access exits so that you have seamless coverage from the tunnel portals in Long Island City to when you exit the facility in Manhattan.
Rea: As a kid, I visited these iconic locations. Now, I actually get to work to improve them. I look at people taking pictures in Grand Central and uploading them on social media and I think, “I’m providing great mobile service to these folks to make that sharing experience possible.”
Cusumano: For East Side access, we’re doing the make-ready work for future carrier 5G deployments and CBRS (Citizen Broadband Radio Service). We’re coordinating potential 5G amplifier locations throughout the public spaces and back-of-house corridors. That way, when carriers come to us and say they want to deploy 5G at these venues, we can quickly roll out their 5G products and get them on as quickly as possible.
According to Rea, Boingo’s efforts at airports date back to the age of 2G. Now, Boingo is helping bring what’s next by ensuring their distributed antenna network and small cell (DAS) solutions are ready for 5G capabilities. Simultaneously, they’re acutely dialed into the present, COVID-19-spurred needs of today’s traveler.
Rea: With 5G, users will see a significant increase in speed. If you have somebody waiting for an airplane, you have this captive audience. Whether they want to check email, FaceTime or download Netflix, users are going to be able to do it in seconds with 5G technology. Whereas 3G took an hour, I can download two movies from Netflix in less than a minute. I couldn’t do that five or 10 years ago. And this is just the beginning of 5G. There are still 5G use cases yet to be imagined.
Czaplicki: We’re able to utilize Boingo’s existing network infrastructure to provide the connectivity backbone that’s key for enabling a touchless passenger journey. For example, at the new Terminal B Arrivals and Departure Halls at LaGuardia Airport, they offer a contactless food ordering and delivery service through the airport app. Passengers rely on our Wi-Fi and cellular networks to interact with that app so that they don’t have to physically interact with concessionaires.
With 5G, users will see a significant increase in speed.”
Additionally, we partnered with the Port Authority to leverage Boingo’s connection portal to show important digital messages to travelers so when they log onto our Wi-Fi network, they’ll see messaging about social distancing and wearing a mask. It provides the traveler with a level of confidence that is a priority to the aviation community.
We also provide expert guidance to airports around operational IoT implementations. From ionization devices that disinfect high touch areas to robotic cleaning scrubbers being rolled out amid COVID-19, we can help support anything that requires some level of connectivity.
Unboxing the Culture
While their undertakings are complex, for these three team members, having an impact in their backyard is nothing short of fulfilling.
Cusumano: It’s very rewarding to do the work, especially here. We’re covering a large majority of the key arteries in and out of New York City. Boingo really does make a difference with our state-of-the-art networks. We’re connecting every New Yorker coming in and out of the city every day.
It's very rewarding to do the work, especially here.”
Rea: We’re giving people a way to connect to their loved ones, whether it’s an emergency situation or just, “I landed at Newark, I’ll be home in a half-hour.” When my dad says, “I drove through the tunnel today and my call stayed up the whole time,” I get a kick out of that — we had a direct impact on him being able to do so. To him, that didn’t exist for so many years. Today, it does.
Czaplicki: From smartphones to wearables to tablets — you name it — mobile connectivity is not an amenity anymore. It’s expected among everyone. Providing reliable, easy-to-use connectivity that most people don’t even need to think twice about is really special. Being deemed an essential business is felt now more than ever. It’s almost like you’re contributing to the heartbeat and the energy of New York. We’re all #NewYorkTough and there’s no better place to do business.