DC Metro begins wireless signal improvement in underground stations

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced yesterday that the project to improve cellular service in Washington DC's Metro stations and tunnels began construction over the weekend, and will be completed on October 16.

The bill to expand wireless coverage in Washington DC's underground Metrorail stations was passed in October 2008, and broke the exclusive contract Verizon Wireless had with the DC Metro Transit Authority through its acquisition of Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems. Bell Atlantic Mobile signed the exclusivity contract with Metro in 1993.

Now, all four major US carriers (Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T, and T-Mobile) have begun installing hardware at 20 of the busiest Metro stations: Ballston, Bethesda, Columbia Heights, Crystal City, Dupont Circle, Farragut North, Farragut West, Federal Center SW, Foggy Bottom-GWU, Friendship Heights, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, L'Enfant Plaza, McPherson Square, Metro Center, Pentagon, Pentagon City, Rosslyn, Smithsonian, and Union Station.

"This is the first phase of Metro's effort to bring expanded cell phone carrier service to the entire Metrorail system by 2012. After we complete the first 20 stations this fall, the carriers will install service at the remaining 27 underground stations by the fall of 2010. Customers will be able to use these carrier-provided wireless services in tunnels between stations by October 2012," said Suzanne Peck, Metro's Chief Information Officer.

All four carriers will build, operate, and maintain their respective networks, but will all contribute to a second wireless network that will be owned and operated by Metro. That network will not only be used for public safety and operations, but will eventually support "The Metro Channel," which will put monitors in stations, trains, and buses that display transit info, news, and advertisements.

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