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.
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.
- NYC Subway Wireless No Cure for Ebola Fears
- Transit Wireless: Unwiring the NYC Subway
- Mind the DAS! AT&T & Sprint Aboard Full NYC Subway Project
- Sprint to Spring Into NYC Subways Soon
- Take the 4G Train: More Wireless in NYC Subways
- Verizon Onboard With NYC Subway Wireless
- 4G LTE Grows (Above & Below)
— Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading