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Boston Subway to Go Wireless


February 17, 2005 By

Government Center will be one of the first four stations where passengers on subway trains will be able to use their wireless communication devices.

Commuters who find themselves riding forever 'neath the streets of Boston -- as the song goes -- may soon ask for a cell phone rather than a sandwich.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Board of Directors recently voted to give a license to InSite Wireless for the right to install, operate, and maintain an underground neutral wireless communication network within the MBTA's subway system. Under the terms of the 15-year license, the MBTA is guaranteed minimum fees totaling nearly $4 million.

The project, to be introduced in phases, begins at the subway platforms at Park Street, Downtown Crossing, Government Center, and State Street, and includes the tunnels connecting those stations. Once installed, the system will provide subway passengers with the ability to utilize wireless voice and data devices, including cellular telephones and hand-held Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). The license also includes the right to expand the wireless network to other stations and tunnels... a move that would generate additional non-fare revenue for the MBTA.

"Enhanced communication within the T system is not just a matter of convenience for customers," said Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas, in the MBTA release. "It also has a critical public security aspect to it, as passengers will have increased ability to report safety issue to the appropriate personnel."

MBTA General Manager Michael H. Mulhern also pointed out that the wireless network project was a key recommendation made by the MBTA's Anti-Terrorism Task Force. "This technology provides an additional measure of security for commuters who will be able to report safety-related matters or other concerns while waiting on station platforms or riding in the trains," said Mulhern.


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