Light Reading

Chicago Subways to Get 4G Upgrade

Sarah Reedy
10/8/2013
50%
50%
Repost This

Following the lead of NYC, Chicago is getting ready to equip its CTA subway system with 4G LTE.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) revealed last week that it would outfit all 12 miles of its underground Red and Blue lines with 4G service. Work will start in mid-2014, but is now accepting proposals from vendors that want to be involved in the upgrade of the eight-year old 1X infrastructure underground.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, six wireless providers currently lease the infrastructure, which cost $12 million to install, for $1.8 million annually. They include Verizon Wireless , AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), and T-Mobile US Inc. , Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP), and U.S. Cellular Corp. . Leap is in the process of being acquired by AT&T, and U.S. Cellular sold its Chicago spectrum to Sprint, but the other four will likely want to get on board (literally!). (See AT&T to Acquire Leap Wireless for $1.19B and Sprint Warns of US Cellular Switch-Off .)

The CTA, which is funding the upgrade, didn't release any details, but for a good idea of how it'll work, check out Dan Jones's story and pictures from Transit Wireless's work unwiring the NYC subway system: Transit Wireless: Unwiring the NYC Subway.

I was thinking about the CTA's planned upgrade on my morning commute today, packed in like sardines with hundreds of other people going to work. I would have liked to use my phone as I stood there, if I weren’t scared it'd get swiped by someone headed out the door.

Okay, the CTA isn't that unbearable (on most lines), but cellular connectivity underground is going to attract some mixed reviews. For the most part, however, it's inevitable and a good opportunity for the cellular operators to show the strength of their 4G networks. In the train I was on, for example, Sprint's LTE marketing was plastered everywhere with Chicago cleverly tweaked to read "CHIC4GO." If it's providing reliable, fast LTE service underground in the same car that's touting that service, it'll produce some good vibes for the operator.

It's not just underground that's getting cellular-friendly either. Last week, a 28-person panel advised the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) to allow airline passengers to use their devices in airplane mode from takeoff to landing. Phone calls will still be banned, but data usage will be allowed if the FAA accepts the recommendation.

Mobile addicts will welcome this change thousands of feet up as much as the changes below ground. Let's just hope they don't abuse the privilege. Loud talkers, mobile game sound users, wearers of headphones that don't contain the noise -- I'm looking at you.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(14)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
DOShea
50%
50%
DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
10/9/2013 | 3:16:16 PM
Re: When downtime was good
Good point about the limited use case for short trips, though I do think customers have come to expect the coverage in subways anyway. Transition to a new card fare system on the CTA has gone pretty horribly, and I would agree this technology transition probably will take longer than expected.
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/8/2013 | 5:36:21 PM
Re: Second City Small Cells
Perhaps this can be a catalyst for an agreement on shared RAN small cells for suitable locations.
Phil_Britt
50%
50%
Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Beer
10/8/2013 | 4:23:47 PM
Re: When downtime was good
As a lifelong Chicagoan (now in the suburbs), expect deployment to be slow at best. Also expect it to be noisier than usual as they work on any remaining infrastructure.

Though I ride the CTA little now (I'm in Metra territory), the 4G likely won't make much difference for many short trips -- lack of space and safety can limit practicality during rush hour, and the subway noise and rough riding conditions can make 4G much less usuable than one might initially think.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
10/8/2013 | 1:20:51 PM
Re: When downtime was good
Yikes, here is proof that train riders are too caught up in their smartphones: http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/8/4816576/oblivious-cellphone-users-didnt-see-gunman-says-sf-attorney Scary.
pzernik
50%
50%
pzernik,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/8/2013 | 11:10:19 AM
Re: When downtime was good
Sarah, like you said, we already have voice service on the CTA so 4G data may just make it quieter.  I suspect much of the upgrade will be beefing up the back haul network to handle all that 4G data.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
10/8/2013 | 10:36:27 AM
Re: When downtime was good
It's true -- everyone is glued to their phones! I've seen people playing games, watching movies, a lot of Kindle reading, and tons of people who listen to music way too loudly. It doesn't really stop underground either, as they're using offline apps, so the annoyance might not get that worse. Even if you have service, it's hard to hear on the train, so it's not ideal for phone calls.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
10/8/2013 | 10:34:51 AM
Re: Second City Small Cells
I think so. It'll license it to all the major operators, so they'll have to agree on an approach. Small cells might save them time and money.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
10/8/2013 | 10:33:48 AM
Re: Timeline
My read of the Chicago one is that connectivity should actually work the entire way underground, not just at the stations, although we don't even have WiFi in the stations yet...not really necessary as you don't want to linger in any of them.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
10/8/2013 | 10:32:41 AM
Re: Timeline
Yeah, they've been talking about Chicago for awhile, but said construction might not begin until mid-2014 "at the earliest." I've lived here long enough to know that means it'll be a looooong time after that before it's actually complete. Anything with the city works that way.
Gabriel Brown
50%
50%
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/8/2013 | 10:29:39 AM
Re: Timeline
You should try the Londond Underground. We now have WiFi at quite a few stations, but nothing in the actual tunnels. Which is a shame because that's exactly when you need to look-up the times of your onward train.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
More Blogs from Light Reedy
While the operators remain quiet on 4G voice, WhatsApp is plowing full steam ahead -- with or without their involvement.
COO Kevin Hankins talks to Light Reading about the carrier's loyalty and rewards program and the opportunity in bridging the chasm between networks and IT.
The big four US operators managed to add 800,000 post-paid subscribers in the past three months, but the scales are tipping in T-Mobile's favor.
Social enterprise vendor Lithium snaps up Klout to add its social influence scoring system to its arsenal of customer experience management tools.
The CCA's biggest members, Sprint and T-Mobile, are friends with the smaller carriers, but would they turn foe if they joined forces?
Flash Poll
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyes Big Technology Shifts

4|16|14   |   03:02   |   (4) comments


US cable engineers are facing a lot of heavy lifting in the coming years, notes Light Reading Cable/Video Practice Leader Alan Breznick.
LRTV Custom TV
Maximizing Customer Experience & Assuring Service Delivery in an IP World

4|15|14   |   4:57   |   (0) comments


Steven Shalita, VP of Marketing, NetScout Systems, Inc., discusses the challenges cable/MSO operators face in assuring the delivery of new IP-based services. Key points include the value of proactively managing performance, and using rich analytics and operational intelligence to better understand service and usage trends, make smarter business decisions and ...
LRTV Documentaries
Bye-Bye DVD: Consumers Embrace Digital Video

4|10|14   |   04:17   |   (7) comments


Veteran video analyst Colin Dixon, founder and principal analyst of nScreenMedia, says research shows 56% are using digital video already.
LRTV Documentaries
Video: TW Cable Puts Multicast Gateways to the Test

4|8|14   |   04:13   |   (1) comment


Tom Gonder, a chief architect at Time Warner Cable, explains how its trial of multicast gateways is impacting IP-based video plans.
LRTV Custom TV
Managing & Monetizing Big Data in Operator Environments

4|7|14   |     |   (1) comment


At Mobile World Congress, Gigamon's Director of Service Provider Solutions, Andy Huckridge, and Heavy Reading Analyst Sarah Wallace discuss the 'big data' issues facing carriers and operators today.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Data Center Energy – Build Your Data Center in a Modular Way

4|7|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


Dr. Fang Liangzhou, VP Network Energy Product Line, shared his thoughts about the challenges for data centers during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Agile Network Solution – An Overview of Huawei's Agile Network Solution

4|7|14   |   2:31   |   (0) comments


Ajay Gupta, Director of Product Marketing, Networking Product Line, gives an overview of the Agile Network Solutions during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s eLTE Voice Trunking, Video and Data Applied for Railways

4|7|14   |   1:38   |   (0) comments


Gottfried Winter is the Sales Director at Funkwerk, a German specialist in GSM-r terminals and a long-time partner of Huawei. At CeBIT 2014, Winter talks to Light Reading about this partnership and the integration of enhanced voice trunking, video and data functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
LeaseWeb Speaks Highly of Huawei's Datacenter Products

4|7|14   |   1:37   |   (0) comments


Rene Olde Olthof, Operations Director LeaseWeb, talks about the next data center transformation during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Documentaries
Comcast: Reshaping the Cable Network Architecture

4|3|14   |   07:11   |   (8) comments


Shamim Akhtar, Comcast's architect and senior director of network strategy, explains why the cable company is moving to a more distributed network architecture.
LRTV Custom TV
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger at Mobile World Congress

4|1|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger speaks to Heavy Reading about the value of virtualization spanning from the data center to service provider networks to mobile devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Analysts' Impressions of Huawei SoftCOM at ONS 2014

4|1|14   |   1:11   |   (0) comments


After visiting the Huawei booth at ONS, Lee Doyle of Doyle Research gives his appraisal of Huawei's SoftCOM solution.
Hot Topics
BlackBerry Invests in Healthcare IT Startup
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/15/2014
Volvo: AT&T HSPA+ Can Drive My Car
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/16/2014
T-Mobile Petitions Operators to Kill Overages
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/14/2014
Cisco & VMware Are Apple & Google of SDN
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/14/2014
Mobile Apps Susceptible to Heartbleed, Too
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/14/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed