Toronto transit riders can now use their wireless devices to connect to the Internet in a third subway station, although it will be several more years before they can expect seamless underground coverage for the duration of their trips.
BAI Canada said Tuesday that it has turned on WiFi service at Bay station, adding to the heavily trafficked commuter hubs Bloor-Yonge and St. George stations, the first two Toronto Transit Commission stations to get WiFi in December, 2013.
BAI is part of the Broadcast Australia group of companies but is 100-per-cent owned by Canadian pension funds. Its sister companies offer wireless services for transit systems in cities such as Hong Kong, New York and Singapore.
The company said work is already under way to connect Wellesley, College, Dundas and Union stations, which should have service later this fall, and said it expects to offer WiFi at all of the stations on the "lower loop" of the Yonge-University-Spadina line (now known as Line 1) by next spring.
After the station platforms and surrounding public areas are connected, BAI will begin working on bringing service to the subway tunnels, but CEO Ken Ranger said in an interview Tuesday that will not be up and running until some time between 2017 and 2019.
In December, 2012, BAI won a contract to implement cellphone and WiFi coverage in Toronto's subway system. The company is paying the TTC $25-million for the 20-year deal and makes money by showing users an ad before they connect.
The TTC stipulated in the contract that BAI build a shared network that would allow for both WiFi and cell coverage.
BAI is laying fibre-optic cables to connect to each station and hauls them back to a base station "hotel" for its wires located above Yonge station.
The three stations with WiFi coverage are also cellular-ready allowing wireless carriers to plug into that base station and offer cellular coverage at those stations and eventually the rest of the loop and tunnels when they come online.
BAI has yet to secure agreements with Canada's Big Three cellular providers BCE Inc., Telus Corp. and Rogers Communications Inc. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)
On that topic, Mr. Ranger said simply that he takes a long-term view of the situation.
"We're pleased with our progress to date. We're happy with our announcement and we're here for the long term in Toronto," he said Tuesday.
BAI's deal with the TTC gives it the right to opt out of the contract by Dec. 5, but it is not obligated to do so and Mr. Ranger told The Globe in July that the company has no plans to execute that clause.
WiFi service, coming to a TTC station near you:
Wellesley – September 2014
College – September 2014
Union – October 2014
Dundas – October 2014
Queen – November 2014
King – November 2014
Spadina – December 2014
St Andrew – January 2015
Osgoode – January 2015
St Patrick – February 2015
Queen's Park – February 2015
Museum – March 2015
Source: BAI Canada
With files from David Hains