By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
With BAI Communications recently acquiring US-based infrastructure providers ZenFi Networks and Mobilitie, the company is sharpening its focus on delivering neutral-host private networks including convergent mobile & Wi-Fi infrastructure for large venues. Wireless networks for city transit including Wi-Fi on trains are other key growth areas, says BAI’s Group Chief Technology Officer, Brendan O’Reilly.
Last month Australia-based BAI Communications acquired ZenFi Networks, the infrastructure provider behind LinkNYC, the largest public Wi-Fi network in the US. BAI’s rapid expansion in the US – which also includes the acquisition of California-based network provider Mobilitie last year – is indicative of the company’s sharpened focus on delivering neutral host private networks. Such network solutions often include infrastructure to support both Wi-Fi and cellular services, the company says.
BAI’s flagship projects now include network infrastructure including Wi-Fi for the New York City and Toronto, Canada subway systems as well as an upcoming revamp of public Wi-Fi for the London Underground, says Brendan O’Reilly, Group Chief Technology Officer for BAI. He also says that Wi-Fi services that serve both transit operations and underground commuters is a key growth segment for BAI.
“Large enterprises and for example public transit organisations are increasingly looking for Wi-Fi and other infrastructure solutions to increase operational efficiency – and quite often this involves delivering both Wi-Fi and mobile services operating on a common private network infrastructure. We see these kinds of private networks as a key growth segment,” says Brendan O’Reilly.
BAI’s transit Wi-Fi networks are also frequently used to manage crowds – via footfall analytics – as well as for e-ticket delivery and access. Brendan O’Reilly says other growth areas include smart cities as well as public Wi-Fi aboard moving light rail and transit vehicles. BAI is also just about to launch an enhanced public Wi-Fi network for the Sunderland City Council in the U.K. including EduROAM Wi-Fi roaming services on the campus of the University of Sunderland.
The acquisition of ZenFi Networks means that BAI’s combined public Wi-Fi footprint in New York City now – at least in theory – spans both subway Wi-Fi operated by BAI subsidiary Transit Wireless and several thousand LinkNYC hotspots operated by ZenFi. No word yet on whether roaming between the two Wi-Fi networks might be available some time in the future – but it is tempting to speculate that it might.
Meanwhile BAI’s other US-based subsidiary spans private network solutions including Wi-Fi for a wide range of large venue types including stadiums, entertainment, hospitality, healthcare, and more. Brendan O’Reilly says growth is expected particularly from the healthcare segment in coming years. In 2017 Mobilitie famously supplied Las Vegas’ giant MGM Resort with one of the largest high-density Wi-Fi networks in the country at the time.
BAI’s neutral host architecture allows multiple operator clients to offer services – for example Wi-Fi or mobile connectivity – on a single, managed network infrastructure. BAI’s New York City and Toronto subway networks connect more than seven million passengers to Wi-Fi every day.
BAI employs 900 staff worldwide and says it currently operates around 1,000 mobile network towers, some 10,000 small cells, and more than 250 in-building networks.