Twenty of the busier underground Metro stations, including major transfer points Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place, will soon get improved wireless service from all the major carriers: AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon. Since 1993, Metro has given Verizon the exclusive right to subterranean cell service, so this will be a big improvement for all those iPhone users on Metro (some Sprint phones were allowed to roam on Verizon’s network, so Pre users may already be surfing the tunnels).
The enhanced service begins October 16, 2009. The remaining 27 underground stations should be wired up by 2012. Metro says phone, text and internet services will be available.
Service will be based in stations, so surfing the web on the train when traveling between stations is likely to be spotty.
Money made it happen, Metro says:
Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobile will build, operate, maintain and own the new wireless network that is currently being installed. The firms also will build a second wireless network, which Metro will own, operate and maintain for Metro’s own public safety and operational communications. The second network will support future plans to launch The Metro Channel, which will provide riders with rail and bus service information, news and advertising via monitors in stations, trains and buses.
The wireless contract will generate a minimum of nearly $25 million during the initial 15-year term and an additional $27 million during the five, two-year renewal terms. Other FCC licensed and unlicensed carriers may gain access to the networks either through entering into agreements with Metro or the group of carriers, which would produce additional revenue for the transit agency.