The Sound Transit board is set to approve a contract on Thursday to add cell phone service inside its light rail tunnels and stations. The bad news: no more phone silence when your train goes underground.
Last year, the company Mobilitie was selected to build out the neutral host 4G LTE cell network (i.e., a multi-carrier network with data) to service all underground light rail stations and tunnels. Installation is expect to start in the coming months, but service won’t be available until mid-2016.
Under the proposed contract (PDF), Mobilitie would be responsible for funding, installing, and maintaining the cellular system. The company will also pay Sound Transit $7,500 a month and a one-time $250,000 payment when the University Link tunnel comes online. The company will profit by selling network access to cellular providers.
University Link light rail trains remain on track to start rolling through Capitol Hill Station by early next year. The University Link line will extend underground from downtown to connect with Capitol Hill and University District stations. Sound Transit began boring for the Northgate Link tunnel in November, which will add three more stations north of the University Station: U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. As of last month, construction on the Capitol Hill Station was around 78% complete.
In addition to enhancing rider experience, Sound Transit anticipates cell service could be used for direct communication with passengers:
Installing wireless communications coverage will improve safety, security, and information opportunities for transit passengers travelling in the underground facilities. It will also create opportunities for additional communications methods and media for transit operations.
Meanwhile, the Sound Transit board is still evaluating proposals to develop the housing and retail properties surrounding the Broadway light rail station. The board is expected to announce the winning contractor(s) in early March.