Wireless network to be built to meet mobile device use in Montreal's subway

MONTREAL – Canada’s leading telcoms are banding together to build a wireless underground network for Montreal’s subway system that will allow riders to use their cellphone, laptops and tablets to make and receive calls and even browse the web.

Bell (TSX:BCE), Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Telus (TSX:T) and Videotron (TSX:QBR.B) said Wednesday they’ll spend $50 million in the coming years to provide wireless communications for the Montreal subway, noted for being deep underground.

“The very same high-quality experience that you’ve been accustomed to above ground will be available underground,” said Francois Gratton of Telus, which is co-ordinating the project.

All four companies will share the cost of the project equally.

Wireless signals currently can’t be received in the underground system, which serves about 900,000 commuters daily.

But with the new system, subway commuters also will be able to text, watch video and download music as they ride through the underground tunnels from station to station.

The first installations will begin at two stations by the end of this year, with full deployment to be completed within five to seven years, the companies said.

Gratton said the telecom companies would like to finish the network more quickly, but installation can only be done overnight when the subway system is shut down for several hours.

“It leaves a really small window where we can do the deployment,” said Gratton, president of Telus Quebec and Atlantic provinces.

The network will use the latest wireless technologies, including Long-Term Evolution (LTE) which brings faster Internet service to mobile devices and is currently used by major wireless carriers to meet consumer demand.

“It’s going to be one of the first deployments in the world for 4G LTE technology in a 100 per cent underground setting,” Gratton said.

The Toronto Transit Authority is planning to offer WIFI — short-range wireless service — for laptop, tablet and cellphone users at two main subway stations later this year, but not underground, spokesman Danny Nicholson said. There will likely be an announcement on underground wireless network service at a later time, he said.

Telus said it provides wireless service in the underground section of Vancouver’s Canada line, the newer part of the Lower Mainland’s Skytrain transit system.

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