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Top US Cellphone Providers Partner To Improve Houston’s Downtown Tunnel Reception

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have installed a distributed antenna system below downtown.

Houston’s six-mile tunnel system is where many downtown workers spend their lunchtime or travel between buildings.

But it hasn’t been the best place to use a cellphone.

“There’s parts of the tunnels I get no texts, no calls, no anything,” said Stephen Ruiz, who works in the Bank of America building and uses the tunnels a lot.

Lilly Lee was walking just below the city’s public works building. She said the signal was fine there, “but if I keep walking to a certain area, it just – totally just gone.”

A new antenna system is supposed to change that.

Verizon partnered with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to install the system, which improved the phone and internet signal. It started to be fully functional last month.

“Initially there was zero coverage in the Houston tunnels,” Verizon’s Jeannine Brew said.

She said the city wanted better reception for people who use the tunnels every day, “but also without the coverage, the wireless coverage, there was also no coverage for critical services such as police and fire.”

The companies worked with the city to install an emergency communications system, which channels calls directly to the police or fire department.

In a statement, Mayor Sylvester Turner called it a “major public safety improvement.”

Back in the tunnels, Shelby Walker welcomed the upgrade, especially given that she often has difficulty finding her way around.

“You have to call somebody if you’re lost,” she said.

 

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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