Thursday, December 31, 2009

One day, I will be able to tweet underground: Metro to write RFP to install cell service in subway tunnels

Metro is looking to make it possible for people to use their cell phones underground, according to Steve Hymon at The Source, Metro's official blog.

Juan thinks this is super exciting. He could go on lengthy diatribes about how this upgrade further positions the system to meet the needs of working professionals (aka the transit choice rider), who would rather leave the driving to Metro while fiddling around on their smartphones during their commutes to work.

I, on the other hand, would like to take a moment to talk about how this could shape preferences for a particular cell phone provider around the region.

Right now, my closest friends in LA have split their allegiances amongst a number of providers: Juan is with T-Mobile; our friend Nurit is with AT&T; BeccaKlaus is on Verizon; and I'm sure somebody I know is on Sprint, except I probably don''t call them very often because they're not IN, as in, IN the Verizon network.

This is because I am IN. I have been a Verizon subscriber for the past six years. And it's certainly not because I love Verizon. Their customer service often leaves something to be desired, and their website is clunky. They charge what I consider an excessive premium to use a Blackberry, so I have stuck to using a phone once touted by the New York Times for its child-friendliness. (GPS? Check. Ability to restrict phone calls? Check twice.)

But Verizon's actual wireless service has been, in my experience, top-notch. With a Verizon phone, I was actually able to make phone calls while I was a student at Smith, which is located in semi-rural western Massachusetts; while I was working at a nerd camp site in a dense redwood forest; and, most importantly, while I was riding the subway in the DC-metro area.

That's right, Angelenos: Cell phone reception doesn't always have to die underground like it does right now in LA.


Out in the DC Metro area, Verizon subscribers have been able to use their phones underground for years (although this has recently been expanded to include three other providers.) This is one of the reasons why so many of my friends and contacts in the DC Metro area are also on Verizon. (Sprint subscribers with roaming-enabled phones could also use their phones underground, but who knows anyone on Sprint?) And because so many of my friends are on Verizon, I have been reticent to leave Verizon myself. Never mind that I don't really talk to people on the phone anymore. I just like having the security of knowing that I'll never get slammed with an egregious bill in case I need to have a marathon sob session with Lizzie G during the weekday hours of 6AM and 8:59PM.

So in conclusion, this whole prospect of an RFP going out to sniff out potential vendors has got me wondering. Who will win? Will underground subway service be limited to just vendor? If so, what criteria will be considered? And would this be enough to change a region's allegiance to a particular vendor, like it has out in DC?

1 comment:

dlombard said...

I can't tell you how much I don't want wireless signals repeated inside of subway tunnels. It is the last place, outside of commercial flights, where we can be free from the blaring sound of other people having conversations on the phone in public.