Your three minute and change light rail rides through the tunnels to downtown and UW via Capitol Hill Station might seem a little longer. Tuesday, the switch was flipped to turn on the neutral host 4G LTE cell network — a multi-carrier network with data — built to eventually service all of Sound Transit’s underground light rail stations and tunnels.
Wireless infrastructure provider Mobilitie built and runs the network and is working with Sound Transit to roll out the service segment by segment, carrier by carrier. Anybody annoying you this week by grunting “uh huh” over and over again is a T-Mobile customer. Soon, Verizon and AT&T “uh huh” grunters will follow. Seattle Transit Blog reports Sprint has yet to sign a contract to be part of the early service deployment.
There have already been a few early adopters, of course:
— Gordon Werner (@GordonWerner) August 24, 2016
Sweet there is cell service in the tunnel (T-Mobile at least). 1 UW Station, 2 on way to Capitol Hill, 3 to Westlake pic.twitter.com/5o0k1lg5WX
— Thomas Ryan (@bites) August 23, 2016
Tweeting from under Capitol Hill. Hooray for data in the link tunnels!
— Aaron J (@flyguy84) August 24, 2016
“The underground coverage will not only enable riders to enjoy more productive commutes but make it easier for Sound Transit to communicate with riders and will improve safety and security underground,” the agency said in its announcement on the first stage of the rollout.
Sound Transit says the Distributed Antenna System Network will provide wireless cellphone coverage to the tunnel between University of Washington and Westlake in downtown by “late September.” You’ll have to wait for “later this fall” for the tunnels downtown and the Beacon Hill stretch will receive service in 2017, according to the announcement.
When CHS first reported on the plans for the network in 2015, the proposed contract called for Mobilitie to pay Sound Transit $7,500 a month and a one-time $250,000 payment when the U-Link tunnel service was activated. The company will cover its costs — and, it hopes, profit — by selling network access to cellular providers. Many riders have also praised wireless service available below ground on the Capitol Hill Station platform — thank the service providers’ coverage strategies, not Mobilitie, for that.
Meanwhile at the surface, the development of the land around Capitol Hill Station is moving forward into a final design phase. The Capitol Hill Champion community group is looking for people from diverse backgrounds to join a set of focus groups to help provide feedback on shaping the development’s final designs for an 86-unit affordable housing project and 100,000 square feet of commercial, housing, and community space.