Citywide Wireless IP Network Launched in New York

Huge wireless network will cover 322 square miles, supporting public safety and general city operations.

by / April 15, 2008

Leave it to America's biggest city to launch an equally big high-speed data network.

The New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) was rolled out to 70 percent of the city's police precincts and firehouses on April 1, giving the city's first responders and employees a unique public safety and public service network.

"It's the first network of its scope certainly anywhere in the country in terms of the amount of area we're covering," said Nick Sbordone, spokesman for the city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), referring to New York City's 322 square miles. "The network is solely dedicated to city use, specifically not just for public safety, but for public service as well. It really is historic in that sense."

NYCWiN will run on 400 nodes across five boroughs -- with many of the access points perched on rooftops. New York City CIO Paul Cosgrave, in testimony to the City Council in February, said NYCWiN can support a diverse array of functions:


  • Nineteen city agencies developed about 53 unique applications for the network, including an expansion of automated vehicle location, a real-time technology to track the city's fleet.
  • The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is developing an automated water-meter-reading program.
  • The city Department of Transportation will use the wireless network to synchronize and time traffic signals to ease traffic congestion. Cosgrave testified that NYCWiN also will provide photos and video of traffic incidents and emergencies.

In addition, the wireless network will be a powerful tool for law enforcement and public safety personnel. The NYPD Real Time Crime Center will link into NYCWiN, which will support Internet protocol (IP)-based emergency call boxes and surveillance cameras. Police officers will have access to in-car photos and video.

"It's a high-speed data network, so it will give the city the ability to improve upon some of things they're using now. You may now have the ability in police cars to get text-based data -- so you're looking for a suspect and it says he's 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and black hair," Sbordone said. "How much more does that enhance what responders in the field can do if they have a picture of the guy instead of just a description?" Similarly the New York City Fire Department will access GIS data, photos, videos and maps through the network.

"If there is, God forbid, a citywide incident, we have the ability then on the network to prioritize it for first-responder use. There will never be the case that someone's checking water meters and a cop can't get a file," Sbordone said.

In 2006, Northrop Grumman Corp. won a bid to build and maintain the network -- worth $500 million over five years -- with the option to extend the contract twice in five-year increments. Under the agreement, the company also will provide technical support to DoITT.

NYCWiN is IP-based and utilizes Universal Mobile Telecommunications System technology, "enabling data transfer rates 50 times faster than before," according to DoITT.

The wireless network was piloted in Lower Manhattan beginning in January 2007. Ninety-five percent of the city will be covered by this summer, and the network will be entirely built out by the end of 2008.

"When complete, this network will represent a truly historic and unprecedented enhancement to the administration of both public safety and public services across the city of New York," Cosgrave said in February.

Matt Williams Associate Editor