News from BWCS

BART Reveals Plan to Improve WiFi on Trains and Make Money

Wed 8 Jan 2020

The San Francisco based Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) says it has developed a plan to greatly improve cellular connectivity and WiFi coverage on its trains. The scheme, which will include improved links in stations and all along the agency’s public rights of way, will also, apparently, generate “substantial” revenue for the transit organisation.

Later this week, the BART Board of Directors will vote on an agreement that’s been in the works for several years between the transit agency and Mobilitie, one of the largest private wireless infrastructure companies in the US. The BART network consists of 180km of elevated and subway tracks linking 48 stations across the San Francisco Bay area.

Under the terms of the plan, Mobilitie will stump up for all capital and operating costs for the project. In addition, it will make annual licensing revenue payments to BART which are expected to total more than US$243 million over 20 years.

In some ways BART is repeating history – for this isn’t the first time it has entered into a 20-year contract with such a provider. In 2014, BART terminated an agreement it had reached in 2009 with WiFi Rail, after the company had begun providing Wifi at some stations. The company had planned to expand and offer customers hourly, daily and monthly rates for service and a free ad-supported option, according to the East Bay Times.

At the time, BART said in a statement that it was ending what it called a "trial" of the WiFi service. The agency added that the service had only ever been available in downtown areas of San Francisco and Oakland and in only 5% of its fleet. For its part, WiFi Rail accused BART of reneging on its exclusive contract and took legal action.

In 2018, the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with Mobilitie Management, LLC. At the time, BART had begun taking delivery of a new set of WiFi-fitted trains. In fact, the operator is in the midst of replacing its old fleet of 669 train cars with 775 new ones, an effort that is expected to be completed in 2022. Until then, there may still be a few of the older train cars in use.

On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference later this year. For information on speaking and sponsorship opportunities at the 2020 event, please contact .

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The 2020 conference ( ) is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Xentrans, Fluidmesh and RADWIN.

Also, for Wireless Suppliers who may be interested, BWCS has launched a brand new conference on the growing market for private wireless networks and 5G services at Ports – please see where the full programme is now available.