US Ops Spend $32.5M to Bring 4G to Chicago's Subways

T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are joining forces to bring 4G LTE to Chicago's subway system by the end of the year, a project that will cost them $32.5 million and make Chicago the largest city in North America to have full 4G coverage underground.

T-Mobile US Inc. announced the initiative Friday, calling itself the project lead in a 20-year deal brokered by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) are also chipping in to fully fund the design and construction of a distributed antenna system (DAS) for the Chicago Transit Authority's entire subway system, which sees around 1.7 million rides taken every day. The carriers will start on the Blue Line, which connects O'Hare International Airport to downtown.

"The current wireless technology in Chicago's subway system dates back 10 years, predating most smartphones and many mobile devices," T-Mobile's CTO Neville Ray said in a statement. Six wireless operators, including the big four, lease the current 2G infrastructure, which cost $12 million to install, for $1.8 million annually. It will be deactivated once 4G is fully up and running. (See Chicago Subways to Get 4G Upgrade.)

The carriers began work on the upgrade earlier this month, a bit later than originally planned, and say the process will create 50 additional jobs. Connectivity is important to the transit authority not just for the loud-talking commuter to be able to keep up his conversation underground, but also for first-responder communications throughout the tunnel system.

For more on 4G LTE projects, head over to the LTE page on Light Reading.

Chicago isn't the first city to work on upgrading its subway system. New York, which has the largest underground system in the country, has also been working on upgrades for years now. Most recently, Transit Wireless and the big four wireless operators said they have made 4G and WiFi available in 76 subway stations around Manhattan and Queens.

Check out the following articles for more on how they deployed 3G, 4G and WiFi coverage, which might provide a blueprint for Chicago to follow in its upgrades.

— Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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MordyK 2/26/2015 | 10:17:44 AM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! @pcharles09 I give them credit for learning from embedded vehicle nav systems and making the effort. How many apps make the effort to take that responsibility? Whatsapp? Skype? that's why I think its important that something like this be a part of the phone's core OS capability.
pcharles09 2/26/2015 | 7:58:46 AM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! @MordyK,

You're right. Have you ever used the Waze app? It uses the motion sensors to detect if someone's thying to navigate while driving. I mean it simply asks if you're the passenger or not, so there's still an out. But it's still progressive.
MordyK 2/20/2015 | 11:06:31 AM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! The same can be said for automaticaly limiting a phone while driving to a pre-set profile of behaviors complying with local safety laws. The onboard navigation systems do it and nobody blinks because its part of the vehicle, but theoretically the same could be true for a phone.

I know there's a complex issue of figuring out if the phone is the driver's or the passengers, but there's plenty of ways to deduce it depending on the approach.
pcharles09 2/20/2015 | 11:03:44 AM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! @danielcawrey,

They're making pretty good progress in New York. Even in some stations where it's not advertised, the service is decent. I'm pretty sure within the next few years, there'll be at least Wifi in all stations.
pcharles09 2/20/2015 | 10:58:29 AM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! @MordyK,

It's a tough topic of conversation but should be discussed. Maybe eductaion is the simple solution.
KBode 2/2/2015 | 9:08:35 AM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! If this Chicago effort follows the NYC one in terms of time frame, you should be enjoying subway wireless signal sometime by 2030 or so. :)
danielcawrey 2/1/2015 | 2:43:10 PM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! This is pretty nifty. For the most part, a lot of underground transit is still without good connectivity. 

But hey, it is now 2015. I'm still waiting for the day I can get a connection from practically anywhere. I think the time is coming. 
MikeP688 1/31/2015 | 11:33:44 PM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! Having Common Sense is a sensible attribute to have--but on the other hand we can't necessarily expect innovation to follow a "cookbook" approach--although some of the organizations striving for standards are certainly trying.   The key is to insure that it is managed and maximzied.   That's the only hope we can aspire to.
MordyK 1/31/2015 | 5:08:53 PM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! but if instead of just having a sign stating "keep quiet" voice was disabled on the network and phone sound volumes were automatically lowered in these locations, wouldn't that be something acceptable? It's not censoring any more than the sign is if it were standard practice in a given location. If you think of it, how's it different than the taboo of putting camera's in a bathroom for surveillance?

One of the legacies of Small Cell's history as a residential femto is that the HomeZone spec enabling customing a phone's behavior based on presence is already available.

I know this can be controversial, but isnt it worth having a public conversation? Isn't this a better approach than jammmers?
pcharles09 1/31/2015 | 4:17:22 PM
Re: loud talkers rejoice! @MordyK,

I think there is a social etiquette in certain places that says "No phones here". People are just rude & ignore it. I mean, is your recap of last night's game so important that you have to do it next to someone studying, etc.

No but that's what comes with mobility & freedom.
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