Subway deal could bring in millions

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) will pay nothing — and get millions of dollars in revenue — through a deal with Chicago-based

equipment and services supplier Andrew Corp. to install wireless antennas

in Boston subway stations.

The project is expected to be completed no later than the fall of 2003

and will allow subway riders to use mobile phones, receive wireless Internet

data on their laptops or handhelds and take advantage of wireless messaging

services on the underground system.

Andrew will pay all of the estimated $12 million to $15 million installation

cost and will collect revenue from payments made by the wireless companies

that want to provide services through the system. The MBTA will receive

a cut of those revenues, which officials believe could eventually total

over $2 million a year.

"Last year, we were presented with a five-year capital plan and a strict

budget under which we have to operate," said Lydia Rivera, an MBTA spokeswoman.

"Now we have to look for other ways to gets funds through the door. Andrew

Corp. made the presentation to us and, particularly since there was no cost

to us, we said "Why not?' "

Andrew has similar installations already running in Hong Kong's subway

system, as well as in other subterranean facilities such as New York's Lincoln

and Holland Tunnels.

There was some initial controversy about the Boston plan when people

objected because they thought that cell phone users would disturb their

daily commutes, Rivera said. In response, the MBTA will sponsor an awareness

campaign, stressing courteous behavior, and will designate special "wireless

free" cars on the subway, as well as cars given over solely to cell phone

users.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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