Passengers on all forms of public transport in Houston Texas are to finally have access to free in-vehicle WiFi. The move comes as a result of a contract signed over two years ago between the Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) and US telecoms giant AT&T.
The Houston Metro area covers some 3,000 square miles and serves a population of over 7 million people. Its services consist of 3 light rail lines (76 carriages), 83 local bus routes and 31 commuter bus routes.
According to a statement from the Metro, the new WiFi on-board services will come into effect on its buses, vans and trains over the next few months, in a phased roll out. In a statement, the organisation’s Public Information Officer, Monica Russo, said that over 50% of its vehicles are already equipped with free WiFi.
It was back in December 2018, that Metro first announced a six-month test of WiFi on certain local bus and train services. As part of the Smart-City project that Houston is masterminding, Microsoft had agreed to fund the WiFi trial. The transport organisation planned to gather feedback from passengers on the selected services with a view to expanding the system to its entire commuter transport network.
Houston’s Metro Rail system carries some 18.35 million riders a year on its 23 miles of track and the pilot scheme was available on the East End and Southeast Lines. WiFi on board was also being trialled on two of the city’s bus routes. The test area was based around the University.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Microsoft spent US$110,220 on the pilot scheme, which covered the cost of installing more than 40 WiFi routers on board trains and buses.
The initial plan was to have the test project up and running within a month or two. In the end, it did not go live until October 2019, following a series of delays related to acquiring the right equipment and installing it on buses and trains. The pilot operated through to January of 2020, just long enough for Metro officials to justify it.
In a poll of users, Metro said 80% said they were satisfied with the WiFi, though it also admitted that more than 70% of respondents said they wanted a faster internet speed and better reliability of the system. However, the pilot programme was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Russo said.
Now, finally, Metro says that its full, free, on-board WiFi service should be up and running by early 2022. Vehicles offering the service will be clearly signed.
“It's something we've been looking at for a couple of years now," Metro’s CIO, Denise Wendler, said in a statement “We're excited to finally expand this service throughout our fleet.” To use the free WiFi, riders will see "ridemetro-wifi" as an option from a list of available connections and will need to put in their e-mail address and approve the terms and conditions.
Sign up now for this year’s WiFi on Trains Programme – www.Traincomms.com where you can also sign up for our Free WiFi on Trains News Service.
The 2021 conference (www.Traincomms.com ) is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, RADWIN, Westermo and GlobalReach Technology.
Also, for Wireless Suppliers who may be interested, BWCS has launched a brand new conference on the growing market for private wireless networks and 5G services at Ports – please see www.PortComms2021.com where the full programme is now available.
The full programme for this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference – Traincomms 2021 – is now ready – www.Traincomms.com .