Toronto

TTC Wi-Fi 'great while it lasts,' but could be better, riders say

Riders have been enjoying quick access to TCONNECT, the Wi-Fi network now available at 40 TTC platforms, but some passengers say it doesn't measure up to the much better connectivity on transit systems in other cities.

'I wish it was everywhere,' TTC passenger says

Victoria Hilliman was on the platform long enough for a quick Snapchat session at Broadview Station. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Riders have been enjoying quick access to TCONNECT, the Wi-Fi network now available at 40 TTC platforms, but some passengers say it doesn't measure up to the much better connectivity on transit systems in other cities.

"I was on Snapchat talking to my friends. It's pretty fast. I don't have anything to complain about," said Victoria Hilliman as the Westbound train came roaring into Broadview Station. 

"Sometimes you're like, 'Wait, darn it, I wish I could stay a bit longer on the platform so I can finish what I am doing,'" said Samira Sherif while reading on her phone at St. Andrew station. 

Your device will remember the 'TCONNECT' network after using it once. (Grant Linton/CBC )

After connecting to TCONNECT once your device remembers the network, but since the hotspots are inside the stations and not the tunnels or trains, you're offline in no time.

Lee Richmond is an avid trader on Bunz Trading Zone and loves that she can arrange meet-ups in more stations now but she envies the world's more tech-savvy subway systems.

Service cuts out when the train leaves the platform and only resumes at the next stop. (Grant Linton/CBC )

 "I wish it was everywhere. I'm sort of jealous when I see Europeans just using their cell phones in every single station, in the tunnels, on the platforms, everywhere," she said.

"It's great while it lasts." 

There are at least 20 stations that still don't have TCONNECT service. One of them is Eglinton West Station where riders say long waits on the platform would be much more bearable with free Internet. 

Eglinton West is one of the 20 stations that are not Wi-Fi ready yet. (Grant Linton/CBC )

"This station has a large amount of traffic. There's a lot of waiting done especially at these platforms," said Liam Falkenheim.

"It takes sometimes 20 minutes for a train here. Hopefully they get it here soon,"  said Jayrick Ducusin as he too waited for the southbound rocket downtown.

Three years ago the TTC and telecom company BAI Canada partnered to enable Wi-Fi across all stations by 2017. Wi-Fi service was up and running along the lower loop south of Bloor in time for the Pan-Am games last summer. Kilometres of fibre-optic cable carry the signal from station to station but tunnels are dead-zones. Expansion into the tunnels doesn't start until 2019.

'Even more connectivity' 

BAI Canada's data shows over 80,000 people use 'TCONNECT' every day across the 40 stations with Wi-Fi service. (Grant Linton/CBC)

In an email to CBC Toronto, BAI Canada CEO Ken Ranger wrote, "As we build out the network, we learn more about how the network is being used, we obtain some very useful data to help brands connect directly with TTC riders." 

Ranger said the ad-funded company analyzes general usage on the network but does not sell information about individual users. 

BAI Canada also built and plans to expand the subway system's cellular network that currently only WIND Mobile users can use. 

"This is our core business," said Ranger, hinting at the business opportunity of selling the below-ground cell service to other telecom companies. 

"We are committed to bringing even more connectivity to more Torontonians in the near future."

TTC to get $25 million for Wi-Fi contract

The TTC will get $25 million over the 20-year contract with BAI Canada, with Wi-Fi and cellular service coming at no cost to the TTC or Toronto taxpayers. 

"This is what we call a successful ... private, public partnership." said TTC Spokesperson Brad Ross, adding that the connectivity is a win for riders. 

But the deal with BAI Canada is also a gold mine for the transit system, he says. 

"They come in, they build the network and the infrastructure and they install it and are responsible for it and they pay us, the TTC, for that privilege." 

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