Why is it so difficult to fix the dead spots on your commuting


Hop on the subway in Seoul or Moscow and your smart phone will stay online during your trip. Do the same thing in New York or Washington, D.C., and prepare to go dark in the center of tunnels.

Forget 5G. US cities are struggling to provide a reliable Wi-Fi and 4G wireless service to their subway systems. This lack of connectivity is attracting appeal of mass transfers and socio-economic segregation, transit officers and economic development are exacerbated.

Disconnecting the reasons for logistics, with competitive interests and debates over the advantages of investing in transit, but the greatest risk is how to pay for better connectivity – which requires cooperation between transit authorities and carriers that are not large. always in them. incentives to spend the money.

A number of agencies are now progressing with greater connectivity in the New York subway system and taking out a cellular service in tunnels in the CC, but these initiatives have taken years.

Only about 30% of the top 75 US transit agencies have used Wi-Fi as a passenger facility t

Jim Baker,

Xentrans chief, Corte Madera, Calif. company, advises and manages public transport communications projects.

Commuters in Washington, who are taking out a cellular service in train tunnels.


Ting Shen to the Wall Street Journal

In the case of wireless carriers, the introduction of underground cellular connectivity does not introduce more revenue. It only helps to prevent customer frustration and curn. It is a matter of concern even if competitors do not have an underground service. The ability of carriers to take out this service also depends on the extent to which transit agencies charge access to their infrastructure and the speed with which governments act.

Mass mass marketing is declining in most major cities in America and there is budgetary pressure on transit budgets. A total of 970.7 million races in the second quarter as a whole were due to an intensive rail line – including subways – in excess of 1 billion during the same five-year period, according to the American Public Transport Association.

Only 32% passenger fares were funded for public transit operations in 2017. The balance came from the transit operator or from state, local and federal governments, according to the latest report from the Federal Transit Administration.


U-riders usually fall into two categories: those who have no other means of getting around, and those who can call Uber or hop on a work-funded fireplace – often with Wi-Fi on board – if trains are delayed.

In the first category, many riders have long commuters and would benefit from improved homework connectivity, paying bills and staying in touch with employers or family members. The second category is the group that transit agencies must attract and retain income shortages or endanger, Mr Tomer said.

Janice Li,

he is a member of the board of systems for Rapid Transport in the Bay Area, and has a lack of wireless connectivity across the San Francisco underground system, but says the agency is addressing other urgent issues, such as homelessness. near stations and evasion of fares. “We are just starting on safety and reliability,” she said.

A BART spokesperson said that wireless connectivity is a priority for the transit agency and soon will award a construction contract for Wi-Fi and cellular envelope cover.

“The importance of having digital connectivity is not their primary service,” he said

Adie Tomer,

man at the Brookings Institute think tank. Transit authorities ask themselves whether the connectivity of a customer they would not have previously attracted would be attractive, he said. Can they defend the above cost on their boards and, ultimately, taxpayers?

Governments in South Korea, China, Russia and elsewhere seem to be more willing to spend money – and put pressure on their domestic carriers – to wire public transit.

A food delivery messenger remains for a train in metro Moscow.


News Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg

In Moscow Metro, the Maxima Telecom carrier provides connectivity. An incentive? It uses data on ridership habits and web browsing to generate revenue from targeted advertisements. Almost all Tokyo subway stations have public Wi-Fi, and carriers have brought an underground service across the systems. In China, subway systems in Shenzhen and Beijing are testing or rolling out 5G service faster with the help of Chinese telecommunication companies.

Share your Ideas

Do you take the subway trains or other trains during your commuting? What type of wireless service do you get underground?

Transit authorities know that they need the service to attract customers, so encourage carriers to provide connectivity. In some parts of the world, like China, connectivity can meet domestic security efforts, including state surveillance.

“Essentially, there are many transits in those parts of the world,” he said

Barry Evil,

a transport technology expert who chaired the Joint Consultative on Wireless Transit Communication, an industry group. Tax-paying citizens and public officials alike in many Asian and European cities say it is a “critical part of the economy,” he said, “where it is a service.” T

In Western Europe, London has made efforts to link the private sector to link connectivity and is gathering data on how customers move across the Country. Virgin Media teamed up with the city transit authority to bring Wi-Fi to station platforms and Transport for London has started to take out a cellular service in parts of its tunnels.

Leaving the station

In Chicago, wireless carriers, together, agreed to pay.

Verizon Communications Inc.,

AT & T Inc.,

T-Mobile US Inc.


Sprint Corp.

The project cost of $ 32.5 million covered a 4G wireless service in 22 miles of tunnels and 21 underground stations.

Acting as a neutral host for the four carriers, ExteNet Systems Inc. won. – together with his partner, Aldridge Electric-25-car train for the job. In summer 2015, two Chicago Transit Authority lines were delayed with underground tunnels on nine weekends and rode 50 to 75 engineers, network technicians and safety workers around, installing radios and laying the essential fibers.

In 2015, Chicago established a wireless service on its two subway lines with underground tunnels over nine weekends. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint covered the cost of $ 32.5 million.


Extenet Systems

The project highlights the financial and logistical challenges associated with underground promotion: Carriers put money up without any immediate expectation to increase subscriber revenue, and installation staff had physical obstacles and relaunched the complexity of trains. And this was Chicago, where most of the trains run above the ground. Other large cities have more extensive stretches of underground tracks.

D.C. ten years ago an agreement with large carriers to provide a cellular service to its tunnels, and the agency aimed to make money by leasing access to the system. These discussions have been the result of logistical challenges associated with track access, contractor problems and funding pressures. Following a series of safety-related events, the agency again tried in 2016, in a new dialogue with carriers to provide a cellular service to all its tunnels by 2020.

“The philosophy is, we have to do this project. It is a safety improvement but it is also a convenient facility for customers, ”he said

Dan Stessel,

spokesman for metro system D.C. The work is completed in just 17 of the 100 miles of track upgraded, he said.

Commuter on Washington metro platform.


Ting Shen to the Wall Street Journal

In New York, a company called Transit Wireless, owned by BAI Communications, invested $ 350 million to build a Wi-Fi service on 283 City Underground Transport Authority platform. The antennas are usually at the center of the platforms, meaning the service does not enter most tunnels. Customers must also log in to use the free service in once off increments.

Transit Wireless carriers pay access to their infrastructure to expand their underground cell envelope in these stations. With limited coverage for stations, commuters need to try their taps, downloads and page loads to avoid shots.

The station's work was completed in 2016 and the MTA states that it is committed to extending wireless access to tunnels. ExteNet says that it spoke to the MTA about replicating its Chicago program on a larger scale to New York.

Carriers say that the cellular service to subway tunnels helps to improve safety by making it easier for passengers to report emergencies. But they also say that local governments need to move faster, and not to charge too much for access to shared infrastructure.

If underground riders are not long enough to attract a private company to invest, many transit agencies – who are already afraid to ride riders with higher fees – will struggle with underground connectivity, transit communications consultants to get. In an age when people pay expensive wireless bills to carriers and feel they are entitled to ubiquitous connectivity for video streaming and chatting, these dead spots are pulling.

Write Sarah Krouse at sarah.krouse@wsj.com

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