CTA subway to get full 4G wireless service at no cost to taxpayers

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Friday, January 30, 2015
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Chicago's subway system will get full 4G wireless service.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Smartphone service will get a boost in CTA subways thanks to a deal involving the city and the four major wireless providers.

The $32.5 million deal with T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, brokered by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, will shoulder the complete cost of installing a 4G network to the entire CTA train system.

"In the subway, I can't send any text messages. And if I'm on the phone I get a lot of dropped calls," Amanda O'Connell said.

"You know, when I go out to the airport, I'm on the Blue Line underground. You get a little problem with that," John Dittmar said.

The upgrades would make Chicago the largest city in North America to have a subway system with full 4G wireless coverage.

"Will it work?! That's the question!" Jamil Moore said. "Um, if they do, I'll be surprised and I'll be excited. But at the same time, the question is, will it work? Because you know how technology is. It's good for a minute, then it's dead the next."

"Of course it's going to help. It's better than absolutely nothing at all, which is what you have now," Greg Malnassy said.

The network upgrade is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push to update technology across the city's public transit system. The mayor's office said it will improve communication between first responders in the tunnels and make it easier for riders to use their mobile devices during their Red Line and Blue Line commutes.

"The current wireless technology in Chicago's subway system dates back ten years, predating most smartphones and many mobile devices," T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said.

Other improvements his office hopes to make include expanded train and bus tracker information, train tracker screens at rail stations and a dramatically expanded security camera network.

Installation is expected to create 50 jobs and should be complete by the end of the year