News from BWCS

And if You’re Going to San Francisco… You Can Now Use WiFi on the Metro

Wed 7 Apr 2021

The San Francisco Metro, due to re-open next month after a Covid-enforced shut-down, will offer WiFi on board its trains and in its stations. Management and maintenance staff at the municipal transport system seized the opportunity to upgrade several services and, with no trains to get in the way, added cellular antennas throughout the tunnels.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency confirmed on Twitter that, for the moment, the trains would only offer WiFi and not mobile cellular connections for passengers.

In addition to the WiFi installation, the San Francisco Metro used the extended subway shutdown as an opportunity to accelerate other upgrades and necessary maintenance work. These included track repairs, new lighting systems, new wayfinding signs and art projects. Safety certification for the subway repairs was approved on March 11th, paving the way to reopen the subway and phase in more rail services in May.

During normal service, subway maintenance crews can only work within the few hours a day when trains are not running. However, the closures due to Covid offered a rare window of opportunity to carry out some major works with almost no interruptions. During the last 12 months SFMTA has operated only a limited set of "core service" routes, which included two Muni Metro routes and four bus replacement services for Muni Metro routes.

According to the SFMTA “The work completed during the pandemic provides significant customer improvements, including a quicker ride, the convenience of WiFi and fewer breakdowns in the tunnel.”

The Metro is an integral part of public transit in the city of San Francisco and connects with regional transportation services, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Caltrain, SamTrans, Golden Gate Transit, and AC Transit. Muni shares four Metro stations with BART.

Underground operators around the world are struggling to install Cellular and WiFi connectivity in their tunnels. Some, such as Washington, Delhi and Moscow have managed to do so successfully, whilst for others such as Berlin and London the old often cramped underground networks have proven more challenging.

Almost exactly one year ago, London Underground embarked on a long-promised trial of 4G mobile services along parts of its underground network. The service has been available on the platforms and tunnels of a section of the Jubilee line between Westminster and Canning Town. London Bridge and Waterloo stations will follow later in the year.

The trial on the eastern half of the Jubilee line is due to be followed by the next stage of procurement for a primary supplier, which the aim of making 4G services “available across the rest of the network” by the mid-2020s. TfL has already been busy preparing for all of this by installing hundreds of miles of new fibre optic cabling across their network.

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, RADWIN and, new sponsors, GlobalReach Technology and Westermo.