The Metro Board will be considering a contract this month that would bring cell phone and wi-fi service to the subway system in Los Angeles. The Metro staff report on the contract is above.
Once installed, cell service would be available throughout the public areas of the Red and Purple Lines — i.e. the station areas — and the underground portions of the Blue, Expo and Gold lines. The service would serve a dual purpose: it would enhance public safety by making it much easier to reach police while underground and it could also attract new riders who want to be online during their commute or public transit trips.
The contract is with a firm named InSite Wireless. Under the contract, InSite would install the necessary infrastructure and then charge individual cell phone carriers a fee to have their equipment and signal placed underground. Metro, in turn, would make a minimum of $360,000 a year in revenue from those deals — a typical type of arrangement in the transit world.
As for the cell phone carriers, they have a pretty good incentive to put their signal underground — if they don’t do it, one of their competitors may. And in the cell phone business, having the largest service area is a pretty big draw for prospective customers.
The contract will first be considered by the Metro Board’s Executive Management Committee on Thursday. It would then likely go to the full Board for their consideration at their meeting on Feb. 28.
If approved, it would take about two years to get the equipment installed in the tunnels, the challenge being that the subway runs most of the day and night. Cell phone service would be completed first with wi-fi coming later; keep in mind that the internet can be accessed via cell signals.