WMATA planning wireless upgrades

Posted on March 13, 2008

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) managers received preliminary approval to request proposals to design, build, operate and maintain a new wireless communications system throughout the subway.

The new system would carry broadband and expanded cell phone coverage through 47 underground stations and more than 50 miles of tunnels.

Currently, riders can receive cell phone service from multiple providers at above ground stations, but the underground wireless service only supports Verizon customers and Sprint phones that roam onto the network. Instead of building multiple communications systems, the new comprehensive network will support all cellular phone services, future operational and public safety radios, WiFi and The Metro Channel — the authority’s project to install flat-panel screens that would provide real-time information and other programming in Metro trains, stations and buses.

Metro technology managers anticipate the project will take one-and-a-half to four years to complete after an agreement is signed, which could be this fall.

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