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Empire State Building telecom retrofit reaps rewards following 9/11

June 01, 2002 |

These days, integrated voice and data communications providers can wire most office buildings with high-speed communications in the blink of an eye. But New York City's Empire State Building was another story. It took six months of planning, construction and coordination between the building's management and telecommunications engineers and technicians to get the 102-story building up to speed in 1999-2000.

It was fortunate for the city's broadcast media that they did. In the wake of Sept. 11, eight television stations as well as numerous radio stations that had facilities in the World Trade Center relocated to the building.

"Getting the building on line with telecommunications wiring was a process, and it's worked out well," says Alex Smirnoff, the Empire State Building's director of telecommunications. "The challenge has been handling the aftermath of 9/11." He says his team has had to take additional floor space to accommodate the broadcast facilities. Out-of-service air ducts have been used to run transmission lines up to the top of the building, while keeping the observatory open.

"The most difficult part of the whole thing is that the stations are always on the air and we have to work around them," Smirnoff says.


Twenty miles of fiber-optic and copper cabling provide telecommunications services for tenants of the Empire State Building. A telecom retrofit made it possible for broadcast media to relocate facilities to the building from the World Trade Center following Sept. 11.

Wiring with foresight

If not for the building management's foresight to have the building wired for telecommunications service two years earlier, the broadcast media could not have been accommodated.

The management team selected OnSite Access to perform the installation. An integrated communications company which found itself caught in the technology market downfall, its assets last year were largely acquired by eLink Communications Inc., New York. Smirnoff says that eLink has performed the telecommunications services well since the takeover.

Once a building is wired with copper and fiber-optic cabling and all systems are installed, numerous communications services are available to tenants, including high-speed Internet, voice, data and enhanced services, says Steve Callahan, vice president and general manager of eLink's New York operations.

The communication provider's construction and engineering team first evaluated the 2.2 million-sq.-ft. building for possible riser pathways to install cabling and point-of-presence (POP) locations in which to house equipment.

The building needed three voice and three data POPs to support more than 800 tenants. In addition, because the building is more than 70 years old, building out in the property's existing telecom closet was not possible. The existing space was filled to capacity with wires dating back to the 1930s and there was no room in the building's risers.

Closets provide pathway

Vacant janitorial closets provided a vertical path to run Category 3 copper cabling and fiber-optic cabling from the second to the 80th floors, the last floor of commercial office space. Building the risers required drilling 144 core holes in concrete slabs to pass cabling from floor to floor. As the building's historic plaster ceilings were not designed with broadband in mind, suites could not be wired from overhead. Hallway soffits were used to wire into the closest tenant and around various tenant suites.

In all, the service provider laid 20 miles of fiber-optic and copper cabling. Now the building not only glows with its red, white and blue tiers of light, it also hums with the sound of Internet and broadcast communication buzzing in its walls and transmitting from its tower.

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