All Aboard the 5G Ride: How Mobilitie Brings Next-Generation Connectivity to Millions of Sound Transit Commuters

Will Gable

With pandemic restrictions easing and offices reopening, transit ridership recovery is well underway. And now, more than ever, passengers expect ubiquitous connectivity to stay connected throughout their journey. In fact, according to BAI Communications’ Connectivity Outlook report, 91% of passengers think seamless mobile coverage above and below ground should be a feature of all world-class cities.

Understanding passengers’ needs and expectations for uninterrupted and reliable connectivity, Sound Transit – a public transit authority serving the Seattle metropolitan area and the Puget Sound region – set out to improve its communications network systems. Sound Transit is tackling the most ambitious transit system expansion in the country, and  Mobilitie is taking Sound Transit into the 5G future, delivering a robust and seamless connected experience, all while simultaneously deploying new wireless networks.

This partnership, which began in 2014, provides reliable wireless service to over 24 million riders each year on the Link Light rail system. The multi-phase implementation approach delivered distributed antenna systems (DAS), connecting all national wireless carriers on multiple segments of the rail, including University Link (U-Link), Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) and Beacon Hill.

Mobilitie used highly specialized hi-rail vehicles to deploy fiber and coaxial cable directly from the road onto the rails, installed antennas, and set up remote units to build the DAS. The network was created on segments of the rail that were already active across more than four miles of rail. The DAS that Mobilitie installed not only provides ubiquitous connectivity, but it also laid the groundwork for future communications network demands from a growing ridership and rail system.

Taking Sound Transit into the future

Completed in October of 2021, the second phase of implementation enabled next-generation 5G wireless capabilities throughout the four-mile Northgate Link Extension for thousands of daily visitors. As the rail was constructed, Mobilitie installed more than 250 antennas and 150,000 feet of fiber and cabling to ensure a strong and reliable connection that will facilitate future technologies. Students, tourists, and commuters can now enjoy seamless wireless connectivity as they travel throughout the Puget Sound.

Mobilitie is currently working on the 14-mile East Link Extension, which is nearing completion and will include 10 stations from Seattle’s International District to Judkins Park, which crosses Interstate 90 to Mercer Island and into downtown Bellevue, ending at Redmond Technology Station.

A connected partnership from the beginning

Thanks to Sound Transit and Mobilitie’s collaborative partnership, riders can now travel around the Puget Sound region with the comfort of knowing they’ll have a seamless 5G connected journey. That has long been Mobilitie’s mission as it deploys wireless infrastructure solutions—including DAS, small cell systems, Wi-Fi systems, and communications towers—nationwide.

Mobilitie has also built several small cells in the greater Seattle area over the years to improve connectivity in urban areas, including to many high-rise commercial buildings downtown. We expect more venues to be constructed in the greater Seattle area. The successful partnership with Sound Transit serves as a blueprint for future projects, and it’s just the beginning of enhancing mobile connectivity in the Puget Sound region.

Mobilitie’s infrastructure is 5G ready and tailored to meet the unique needs of any transit authority – explore the 5G Ride.

Will Gable

Vice President, Network Deployment

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