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San Francisco’s BART train network is getting 5G

People using their phones on a train on the BART transportation system.
(Image credit: BART.)

One of the primary benefits of 5G will be the potential to stay connected to an ultra-fast, low latency network from your home, but also as you move around your town or city, but to achieve this there will have to be a period of significant infrastructure investment, especially within the transport network.

And a new partnership between the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), the fifth busiest public transportation system in the US by passenger numbers, and Mobilitie, the largest privately-held wireless infrastructure firm in the nation, is ensuring that the city’s trains are 5G ready.

"Working with Mobilitie for this digital transformation will improve broadband connectivity across our system and for our riders."

Bob Powers, BART.

"Providing passengers with seamless and uninterrupted connectivity is one of our top priorities to enhance the customer experience," said BART general manager, Bob Powers. "Working with Mobilitie for this digital transformation will improve broadband connectivity across our system and for our riders. Ultimately, people will have better access to real-time information and a more convenient and easier to use transit.”

5G and the BART network initiative

The new digital network will transform how passengers connect to the internet, providing 5G connectivity on trains, within nearly 11 miles of existing tunnels, at 11 stations, and within surrounding communities. The BART network initiative has four major pillars of transformation:

  1. Underground Wireless (DAS) in SFMTA tunnels in downtown San Francisco 
  2. Wayside Wireless Communications and Small Cells along the rail line
  3. Wi-Fi connectivity across the stations and trains
  4. A massive fiber plant installed along the entire rail right of way (RoW) which will provide a high speed telecommunications broadband backbone throughout the Bay Area

“BART has demonstrated a clear vision for improving the experience for their riders which is aligned with our mission in California and throughout the US."

Lisa Doumiaty, Mobilitie.

“As one of the largest public transportation systems in the US, we are excited to be working with BART on this very important initiative to improve wireless communications in the Bay Area,” said Lisa Doumiaty, vice president of wireless solutions at Mobilitie. “BART has demonstrated a clear vision for improving the experience for their riders which is aligned with our mission in California and throughout the US as we build the nation’s 5G infrastructure backbone.”

To upgrade station and train connectivity, Mobilitie will deploy the latest Wi-Fi technology, Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax, throughout 48 stations, including BART’s Fleet of the Future trains that will be fully Wi-Fi enabled. BART is expected to bring connectivity to its entire fleet by 2023. 

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.