The facts about underground connectivity

In our previous post, we shared the story of bringing Wi-Fi and cellular service to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). The station network and over 12 kilometres of tunnels are now completed, fully operational and ready to be used by everyone – but when we chatted to commuters on the TTC recently, we found that many of them didn’t know it was there at all or had some misconceptions about how it works. So today we’re separating fact from fiction by explaining how the network functions and how we can all take advantage of this exciting new service.

Fiction 1: “Cellphones and other electronic devices can’t get connected underground.”
The facts: We tend to think of towers when we think of getting a phone signal, so it’s natural to think our cells and other devices can’t work underground. But BAI Canada’s engineering team built a fibre optic network with a carrier-grade, distributed antenna system to transmit a strong signal in every station, platform and stairwell, so there’s reliable cellular coverage and high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the TTC.

If your cell carrier has activated our service for their customers, then when you walk into a station and down underground, you’ll get continuous connectivity: your cell automatically transfers to our network without your having to do anything, and you can use all the normal functions on your phone like calling, texting and browsing. And for Wi-Fi, there’s TCONNECT, the free Wi-Fi service that’s now available for everyone throughout every TTC station.

Fiction 2: “Free Wi-Fi is always slow.”
The facts: If you’re in a crowded place–say your local coffee shop–and it’s using a typical domestic modem to provide free Wi-Fi service for its customers, then yes, the service is going to seem slow. Our network is entirely different. There is a state-of-the-art fibre optic system built into every station, ensuring that even when there are thousands of people getting off a train and connecting at the same time, the signal is strong enough to provide great service to everyone. In most cases, you’ll find it averages at around 30Mbps (depending on the time of day), which is as fast as many of us have at home – certainly fast enough to stream video, for example.

Fiction 3: “My train will be here by the time I get logged on.”
The facts: On the contrary, our engineers designed the authentication process knowing that the majority of people using it will be hurrying through a station or about to hop on a train. Just select TCONNECT in your Wi-Fi settings and open your browser to get connected: you should be online in no more than 20 seconds.

Fiction 4: “The cell service is only for Freedom Mobile customers.”
The facts: Freedom is indeed the first carrier to activate the service for their customers, but the network was built for everyone and will support any and all providers. Please let your network provider know you’d like the cellular service, and we’ll hopefully be providing it to you very soon.

Now that we’re up and running, we look forward to seeing more Torontonians making use of the network to stay connected, safe, up to date and entertained as they make their way around the city. To see TTC commuters talk about what they’re looking for from this service and how they intend to use it, you can watch the video below. And as always, if we can do more to address your questions and explain the possibilities offered by the network, feel free to get in touch at