The CTA is looking for wireless telecommunications companies to upgrade the existing outmoded wireless network to 4G technology, the latest-generation wireless technology, the transit agency announced last week.
The move would bring faster and more reliable voice, data and web services throughout the CTA's 12 miles of underground subways. That's 24 miles of individual tunnels on the Blue and Red Lines.
Anyone who has tried to use cellular service in the subways over the last year knows that it's woefully inadequate. You can barely send a text message - and often cannot at all. The existing infrastructure dates back to 2005 and is beyond its useful life in that it only supports voice services and has limited data-support capabilities. But I will say it's nice not to hear folks yakking on cellphones in the tunnels.
Under the project, the current wireless network would remain operational while upgrades are made. To keep upgrade costs down, the selected wireless telecommunication provider will need to utilize existing infrastructure materials – such as fiber optics, power sources and hardware equipment – whenever possible.
The CTA currently owns and leases its subway cellular network to six major wireless service providers, which generates approximately $1.8 million in non-farebox revenue for the agency annually, according to a news release.
Project costs will be determined after proposals are received from qualified vendors, and the project will be funded through CTA’s annual capital program. CTA expects to continue to receive revenue from the wireless providers as it does today.