PARIS transport authority RATP has signed an agreement with SFR to enable internet access in the Métro.
Thirty-six per cent of passengers have smartphones but are unable to use them on the trains, or only occasionally, at slow speeds. Now RATP is planning technology to make the internet accessible throughout the network by the end of 2015, including the RER A and B local train network, which connects the capital with suburbs (and airports) and also often goes underground.
After having installed free wi-fi in 48 stations last week, RATP is now working on making 3G and 4G access available, whether in the underground stations, or on the Métro itself.
The first operator to sign to take part is SFR. From October its users will be able to connect in the areas around two key stations in central Paris - Châtelet and the Gare de Lyon - where antennas are being installed. Line 1, which crosses east to west between la Défense and Château de Vincennes and the RER A and B will be served next year and 75% of travellers should have access by the end of 2014.
RATP is hoping to come to agreements with the other mobile operators. Bouygues is set to sign within a few weeks, while Orange is also in negotiations. To take part they will need to pay RATP a charge and contribute to infrastructure costs (cables and antennas).
“We want all users to have access to their operator,” said Pierre Mongin, the head of RATP. “We think that being connected is part of a transport service. Users should be able to work and entertain themselves during their journeys.”
RATP says the work will have no impact on ticket prices and there will be no disruption as cabling work will be done at night.
The network will not use the familiar masts seen on rooftops but small antennas suitable for the narrow Métro tunnels.
Some campaigners have raised concerns about the possible effects of the mobile phone waves on travellers, however RATP says any exposure will be “very much below the [acceptable safety] norms”.
Campaign group Robin des Toits claims that being in a “metal cage” “concentrates” the power of the waves, however RATP says tests show the metal structure has no effect.
Aaron Amat - Fotolia.com