RealTime IT News

San Francisco's BART Offers Wi-Fi

San Francisco Bay Area commuters will soon have the ability to access fee-based Wi-Fi Internet access from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trains and stations.


Wi-Fi Rail and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) have finalized a 20-year agreement to provide high-speed mobile Wi-Fi access throughout the BART transit system and on all BART commuter trains.

Wi-Fi Rail has been conducting a pilot test of the system on portions of BART, including the four underground stations in downtown San Francisco and a 2.2 mile stretch of open-air track in Hayward, CA. Service has been free during the one-year testing period, during which more than 15,000 users signed on and used the system more than 85,000 times, according to Wi-Fi Rail.

The company says users experienced "seamless service" between the stations during the testing phase. The network was designed to deliver consistent speeds "capable of providing video to and from the train, Internet VPN, VoIP, train telemetry, and a host of other applications that a giant wireless LAN can offer,” said Wi-Fi Rail in a statement January 19.

According to Wi-Fi Rail, tests on trains moving at over 81 MPH have consistently demonstrated upload and download speeds in excess of 15Mbps.

The service will soon begin expanding in segments until it runs system-wide, enabling commuters with Wi-Fi-enabled devices to surf the Web, send e-mail, and even videoconference (should they want to), when riding the rails or waiting in the stations. Subscriptions will be available at daily, monthly, and annual rates.


The network utilizes standards-based technologies, which include a collapsed fiber-optic backbone, Cisco wireless access points, routers, and switches, and Apple OS-X servers.


“We are thrilled to showcase our technology in the network designed for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system--it is a great partnership,” said Cooper Lee, CEO and inventor of the patent-pending mass-transit Wi-Fi technology. “This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate what high-speed Wi-Fi access, interconnected by a huge fiber-optic backbone, can mean to a transit system and its passengers.”


Once completed, the Wi-Fi Rail deployment in the BART system will become the largest high-bandwidth mobile Internet LAN in the United States. Completion of network construction is planned for the end of 2010.


Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-Fi Planet. She is a former San Francisco resident who now lives and works in Western Massachusetts.