News from BWCS

Washington Reaches 100% Wireless Coverage of Metro System

Thu 28 Jan 2021

Just in case you thought nothing much has happened Washington DC recently, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has announced that it has achieved 100% wireless coverage of its underground rail network. Of course, the operator has not done this alone, indeed the main part of the work has been carried out by mobile network partners AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Those passengers not celebrating the announcement, may have been reflecting that it has taken the five organisations involved some ten years to reach this much-promised nirvana.  

The final piece of the wireless jigsaw fell into place when the last three segments of line were hooked up this week. These were on the Yellow Line from L'Enfant Plaza to the Pentagon, and Silver Line in Tysons Corner and between Dupont Circle in Downtown DC and White Flint in Maryland.

According to Virginian Democratic Senator, Mark Warner, of the Congressional Committee that has been pushing the project, “This is something we’ve been working with Metro and the carriers on for years, because it will improve safety for Metro riders and workers.” He continued, “the federal government and the region have made substantial investments in making this system safer and more reliable, from rebuilding tracks to introducing new rail cars, and now passengers will be able to use their cell-phones underground throughout the system.”

A statement from WMATA made no mention of adding WiFi to the train carriages, but stressed that the completion of wireless coverage for the underground portion of the Metrorail system will add to the customer experience. It also pointed out that wireless services are already available in all below-ground stations and there is free WiFi in place at all 91 stations.

According to the operator, the installation has required more than 400 miles of cabling and infrastructure in the extensive tunnel system as well as additional components in shafts, stations, and above-ground connections. Much of the work could only occur when the trains were not operating during three-to-four-hour overnight maintenance windows or during other scheduled track maintenance outages.

The project, initiated by the Congressional Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, was jointly funded by an agreement between WMATA and the wireless carriers and addresses recommendations by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on Metro’s Underground Communications Systems.

Day-to-day operation and maintenance of the carrier’s communications system will be performed by the wireless carriers who will also regularly test and the network.

The move puts Washington firmly ahead of London, where full underground connectivity has still to be achieved. In March of last year, a trial of 4G mobile services began along a section of the Jubilee line between Westminster and Canning Town. Further developments are expected this year.

On-train WiFi services, trackside wireless networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’ WiFi on Trains Conference on November 16th and 17th this year. For information on speaking and exhibiting and the one remaining sponsorship spot at the 2021 event, please contact  .

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The 2021 conference ( ) is sponsored by Icomera, Xentrans, Fluidmesh and RADWIN.

One sponsorship position remains open. Anyone interested in this, or in having a small expo stand at the Conference, should contact BWCS.