Wireless in the Sky: Hearst Builds Tower of the Future

Media icon Hearst has built a 46-story, 856,000-square-foot structure designed to utilize the latest wireless technology.

Hearsts new tower, with its diamond-shaped windows and distinctive triangular frame, cuts a unique profile against the New York skyline, rising like a faceted apparition above its gray Columbus Circle neighbors.

Its uniqueness doesnt end with its outside appearance, however. The 46-story, 856,000-square-foot structure is also the citys first building designed from the beginning as an example of wireless enterprise convergence.

"We wanted to make a building that would last the test of time, something that looked beautiful but had the best in functionality," said Brian Schwagerl, Hearsts vice president of real estate and facilities and the executive ultimately responsible for the new headquarters building. "It was more than a corporate headquarters—it was our home."

Construction started in 2003, and soon after—in early 2004—executives decided they wanted to have the most technologically advanced building possible. The last of the executives moved into the tower in October 2006.

Schwagerl said Hearst officials had several requirements when planning for the building. "We had to work with the base of the building, which was a historic landmark," he said, explaining that the companys original headquarters building would support the new one. "We used the original 1928 building as a pedestal."

But there was more than that.

"We had to honor the true commitment of [the Hearst family] to make this a world-class tower for a world-class company. The tower above had to incorporate the latest technology and innovation," Schwagerl said.

Hearst is a 119-year-old multimedia giant, owning more than 40 daily and weekly newspapers; almost 200 magazines; 29 television stations; joint interests in several cable networks; and other businesses that include informational services, Internet content, newspaper distribution, television production and real estate. It has almost 20,000 employees worldwide, several hundred of whom work in the Manhattan headquarters.

Schwagerl said the use of wireless technology was critical to the design of the Hearst Tower. "The third-floor atrium is now transformed into a piazza, or grand plaza, similar to what youd find in most European cities. There is a theater, a cocktail lounge and a restaurant," he said. "You can take your laptop to this historic setting and work."

In fact, wireless access extends throughout the building. "Our vision was to make this as much a fully functional, first-rate office building as possible," Schwagerl said. "That meant looking at technology in a new way. It required true functionality that made sense for our employees so that they could have the latest tools to help them function more effectively."

The first thing Schwagerl and Hearst did was to ask for help with the technology. For the wireless and networking convergence, this meant bringing in Peter Filatov, president of KLCJ, in Pearl River, N.Y. KLCJ is an independent wireless consulting company that has extensive experience in convergence and in large installations.

Filatovs task was to work with Hearsts IT department and its other consultants, Constantin Walsh-Lowe and Heinz, to come up with a comprehensive converged wireless design.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about how convergence curbs complexity.

"Hearst was in a position where they were doing a lot of IT designs," said Filatov. "They have a VOIP [voice over IP] solution [from Avaya], and they have wireless VOIP. They had a big future-proof mentality, and they had aesthetic concerns."

Filatov said it was important that he start with the basics to get Hearst exactly what was needed for the new building. "I focused on a needs assessment, but first was education because some of their needs were so new," Filatov said.

Designing a wireless network for the tower proved challenging and complex, according to Filatov. "Hearst is a very large media corporation; they have a tremendous amount of wireless [hardware] and wireless technology," he said. "The noise floor in that building is high because of the technology they have."

Filatov said having a high noise floor—the amount of radio noise in the area—can make it hard to get a good-quality signal.

"There are three major categories of technology," Filatov said, describing the wireless infrastructure he designed for the tower. "Theres a two-way radio system. It has a fiber backbone. Its for Hearst but allows first responders, EMS [emergency medical services] and public agencies to have access. Then there is the wireless-carrier world. We have Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile [USA]. Then there is the Wi-Fi world."

Next Page: The power of a distributed antenna system.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...