Sound Transit Board approves contract for cell service in tunnels

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Provider will pay ST to provide and maintain cell network

The Sound Transit Board has approved a contract to supply cell service in all underground transit tunnels and stations.

"Making it possible for riders to use their smartphones anywhere on Link light rail - even in the tunnel - is an example of our commitment to customer service," said Dow Constantine, Chair of the Sound Transit Board of Directors and the King County Executive. "Sound Transit is making it easier for passengers to stay connected and productive as they travel across the region."

The Board action allows the execution of a license with Mobilitie Investments III to install, operate and maintain a cell host network and provide non-discriminatory access to wireless carriers in the current and future transit tunnels and underground stations owned by Sound Transit and King County.  After installation of the host network any wireless carrier will be able to provide cell service in the underground transit facilities.

Service is currently scheduled to be available by mid-2016.

Sound Transit currently has approximately 6.6 miles of twin-bored tunnel that was constructed for the Initial Segment and the University Link Extension, for a total of 13.3 miles.  The license also provides options for installation of the host network in the 8.2 miles of new tunnels and two underground stations under construction as part of the Northgate Link Light Rail Extension and the tunnels in the East Link Light Rail Extension.

Providing wireless communications coverage will improve safety, security, and information opportunities for transit passengers travelling through the underground facilities.

It will also create opportunities for additional communications methods and media for transit operations. The system will be designed to avoid intermodulation and radio frequency interference with existing transit communications systems and operations in the underground facilities.

The contractor has already completed a "proof of concept" test in a portion of the Beacon Hill Tunnel which showed it has the capability to provide robust cell coverage underground.

Mobilitie will fund the design, installation, operation and maintenance of the system and pay Sound Transit a minimum monthly fee of $7,500 for the entire license term, including any option years.  Mobilitie will also make one-time payments of $250,000 for University Link and East Link and a one-time payment of $300,000 for Northgate Link.