AT&T completes mobile phone service upgrade on all 11 Metra lines

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AT&T Tuesday announced it has completed an upgrade of its 4G LTE mobile internet service on all 11 Metra commuter lines.

AT&T has been adding nearly 100 small cell sites to utility poles running parallel to Metra routes for months, so the enhanced service won’t be something every rider suddenly notices on Tuesday, ATT spokeswoman Erin McGrath said.

However, the small cell sites “augment the larger network” to give “the best possible” AT&T 4G LTE service as Metra passengers ride along on trains, McGrath said.

AT&T-based mobile phone calls, texts, downloads, web surfing and video streaming all should be faster on mobile phones and tablets while riding Metra than before the upgrades, McGrath said.

AT&T brought 4G LTE to Chicago and the surrounding areas in September 2011 and has been moving outward from Chicago since then, McGrath said. Between planning and execution, the Metra project took more than two years, she said.

The company’s Metra effort – at no cost to Metra – was intended to target the “ton of customers who ride Metra in and out of the city every day,’’ McGrath said.

Download speeds for 4G LTE generally range from 5-12 Mbps, and upload speeds are in the 2-5 Mbps range, McGrathsaid.

The AT&T effort is separate from Metra attempts to bring WiFi to riders. The last consultant contacted estimated in January 2013 that it would cost Metra $71 million to bring WiFi to customers.

The commuter rail agency plans to request bids soon to conduct a pilot WiFi project on the Rock Island line at no cost to Metra, said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis.

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