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CTA Announces 4G Service Upgrade For Subways; Soon We Can Talk On Our Phones Like It's 2011

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 18, 2014 10:30PM

Photo credit: Bob Segal

Chicago Transit Authority announced Monday they would begin accepting proposals to upgrade the current wireless network for the Red and Blue Line subway tunnels to accommodate 4G technology and that work on upgrading the system could begin as soon as later this year. While we applaud CTA for finally deciding the current wireless network isn’t good enough to service riders in the Social Media age, we won’t hold our breath.

The system riders currently enjoy, which drops calls and data service seemingly at every third subway station, was installed in 2005 long before Facebook was widely available, Twitter was nearly nonexistent and the most technically advanced video game on a cellphone was a game of Snakes on an LCD display. CTA President Forrest Claypool said of the current spit-and-bailing wire approach to underground wireless service, “We’re pleased to make progress in our efforts to update technology infrastructure that is no longer adequate to meet today’s wireless needs, including those of our customers, our employees and emergency responders. We’re committed to finding the best qualified organization to efficiently design and install the modern infrastructure our subway tunnels need.”

Upgrading the 24 miles of subway and adjacent infrastructure won’t come cheap, however and CTA isn’t saying how much they expect the project to cost until after they receive bids from qualified contractors. Those requests for proposal are due in mid-March. CTA expects to award the contract to the winning bidder by summer, work to begin on upgrading the network before the end of the year and promised the current network would remain online throughout the upgrade.

Here’s hoping CTA also properly values the network upgrade. Their current cellular network is leased to six major wireless service providers, which generates approximately $1.8 million of annual revenue. Get more than that, Mayor Emanuel.