Wi-Fi Pulls Into Amtrak Stations

By Colin C. Haley

February 05, 2004

A five-year deal with AT&T Wireless will put hotspots in six busy Northeast stops this summer.

Amtrak and AT&T Wireless have signed a five-year deal that will put Wi-Fi access points in six of the railroad's busiest train stations.

The networks will be operational in early summer in the following depots: Boston Route 128 Station; Providence; New York Penn Station; Philadelphia 30th Street Station; Wilmington; and Baltimore Penn Station.

"We want to offer our customers and passengers the most updated technology so they can take care of work and stay in touch with their families when commuting or traveling," Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski told internetnews.com.

Anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or PDA will be able to access the systems. There's no charge for AT&T Wireless customers. Non-AT&T customers can activate the service with an online credit card payment of $9.99 for 24-hours of access. Amtrak is confident about the demand for the service in the Northeast corridor where weekday ridership tops 1 million. It said it will explore adding access points at other stations (it has 500 in all) as needed.

As for Wi-Fi on trains, Amtrak is still in the test stage. It has run a pilot program in Northern California since November, but it's too early to say if it will become permanent, Golgoski said.

AT&T Wireless will design, install and manage and operate the Wi-Fi systems. The firm, which is a takeover target, beat T-Mobile and Sprint for the contract, the value of which was not disclosed.

A spokesman for AT&T Wireless, which also operates Wi-Fi hotspots in airports and other public venues, was not immediately available for comment.

In a statement, AT&T said the Amtrak deal supports its strategy of using Wi-Fi to complement its EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution) network, which offers data speeds comparable to in-office cable or DSL.

EDGE is designed to serve smaller areas in fixed locations like airports, office buildings, bookstores, and hotel lobbies.



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