All Aboard! Cablevision Cleared to Offer Wi-Fi on NJ Transit Trains, Stations

Calling it the first public-private wireless Internet partnership of its kind in the nation, the NJ Transit board of directors on Wednesday announced that it has partnered with Cablevision Systems to provide Wi-Fi access at stations and onboard trains under a 20-year pact.

Cablevision will provide that access “at no cost to the agency.” Cablevision will front the capital investment, which will include fiber optic cabling, wireless access points, antennas, and “related equipment in stations, along the right-of-way and onboard vehicles.”

Cablevision declined to comment on anticipated costs of the deployment. Cablevision customers will get to tap in for free, and the MSO will charge a “reasonable” fee not yet announced to others, a Cablevision official told the Asbury Park Press.

Cablevision recently begun to sell day passes to non-subscriber on a “limited basis” on its currently deployed Wi-Fi network in some parks as well as MacArthur Airport on Long Island, Cablevision senior vice president of broadband product Gemma Toner told Multichannel News in a recent interview.

The NJ Transit Wi-Fi system will be implemented in phases, starting initially with “major stations” such as Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal, which together serve more than 100,000 customers on a typical weekday, according to NJ Transit. NJ Transit, which claims to be the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system, operates 164 rail stations, 61 light rail stations.

The Wi-Fi project is slated to be “substantially complete” by the end of 2016. NJ Transit issued its request for proposals for the Wi-Fi initiative in September 2010.

“Providing NJ Transit customers with access to an unparalleled Wi-Fi network is one of Cablevision’s strategic objectives,” said Cablevision president and CEO James Dolan, in a statement. “We have already built the largest Wi-Fi network in the country to meet the surging demand from our own subscribers and now we look forward to working with NJ Transit to deliver an exceptional Wi-Fi experience to its riders.”

Cablevision Systems has already deployed more than 80,000 Wi-Fi hotspots on its Optimum WiFi network, which covering parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Access is free to Cablevision's own broadband customers as well as the cable-modem customers of its “CableWiFi” roaming partners – Comcast, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable. Together, those MSOs have deployed more than 150,000 Wi-Fi hotspots.