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October 4, 2013

Chicago transit to equip subways with 4G

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is seeking wireless telecommunications companies to upgrade the existing wireless network to 4G technology.

This initiative is one of several efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool to modernize infrastructure and make the CTA a world-class transit system.

“Chicago’s world-class transit system continues to improve, including upgrading technology for the safety and comfort of the millions who commute by bus and train every week,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I am completely committed to investing in all aspects of our public transportation infrastructure, from rails to stations to wireless access, which will encourage ridership growth and economic opportunity.”

RELATED: "Amtrak upgrades wireless service"

The upgraded subway wireless network will improve the customer experience by offering better and more robust services capable of supporting tablets and smartphone capabilities, and it will also address system safety by providing more reliable communication between CTA personnel and emergency responders.  

The existing infrastructure dates back to 2005 and is beyond its useful life in that it only supports voice services and has limited data-support capabilities.

Under the project, the current wireless network would remain operational while upgrades are made. To keep upgrade costs down, the selected wireless telecommunication provider will need to utilize existing infrastructure materials — such as fiber optics, power sources and hardware equipment — whenever possible.

“This infrastructure was pioneering for the transit industry when it was installed, and through this upgrade initiative, CTA looks to lead the industry once more by offering a fully-operational, 4G network across all major wireless service providers,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.

CTA has 12 miles of underground subway, or 24 miles of individual tunnels, on the Blue and Red Lines. Additionally, the subway system includes multiple underground passageways connecting rail lines and providing access to nearby buildings. The agency currently owns and leases its subway cellular network to six major wireless service providers, which generates approximately $1.8 million in non-farebox revenue for the agency annually.

Project costs will be determined after proposals are received from qualified vendors. The project will be funded through CTA’s annual capital program. CTA expects to continue to receive revenue from the wireless providers as it does today.

RELATED: "Mayor: Transit key to Chicago's economic edge"

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