Dear PoPville – Anyone Notice Cell Phone Reception Dropping in Metro?

Photo by PoPville flickr user pablo.raw

Dear PoPville,

I’ve noticed that some stations along the red line (union, judiciary square and I think even Chinatown) that once had cell phone service don’t seem to any more. Do you know anything about that?

36 Comment

  • It’s not just you. I noticed the same thing over the past two weeks or so.

  • One of my favorite pabloraw photos!

  • yes! I have noticed the same thing too– especially in Dupont!
    There must be an explanation because this change isn’t something small…

  • It would be more noteworthy if you noticed having cell reception.

  • Oh, totally. This is true of the Green Line as well; there used to only be brief patches without service, now it’s great swathes of the line where I get NOTHING. Maybe they’re upgrading or something… hopefully?

  • T

    Yup – I’ve noticed this for at least the past month or so while transferring in chinatown. My phone usually reports several bars of service, but you can’t actually make calls or access data.

  • I suspect this is because the vendor (Powerwave Technologies) who was responsible for implementing and maintaining the system went bankrupt. Last I heard they were trying to get someone else in to run the system, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that hasn’t happened yet, or if that winds up not being a smooth transition.

  • Yep, same here (iPhone 4, AT&T). I used to stream NPR on my phone in the mornings and can no longer do that.

  • Chinatown is bad, I use to get reception at Waterfront and now I don’t. Don’t get it at Metro Center now either.

    I never got it at Farragut North, no change there.

    • I think the lack of service at Farragut and Metro Center may have something to do with the proximity of those stations to the White House (this is just a guess though).

      • Why would you think so? All those tourists standing in front of the White House are posting their pics on Facebook instantaneously.

        Perhaps you’re thinking of the NSA or something.

      • I have AT&T and get service in Dupont and Metro Center stations, but not Farragut North, where I used to be able to get service. My guess was it had something to do with them doing renovations at Farragut North. They had taken most of the ceiling down there so I thought perhaps they had disrupted the repeaters or whatever is used to deliver the cell signal.

  • A couple problems that have led to this: the contractor in charge of installing cell transmitters etc. throughout the Metro system went bankrupt and has ceased work on new installations. My guess is that this also extended to basic maintenance, and so existing cell service has detiorated because literally no one is maintaining the equipment.

    In better news, some of their bankruptcy filings came out last week and there was an arrangement between Powerwave and the major carriers that will allow a new subcontractor to take over the job. It will probably be at least months before anything is restored, though…

  • I’ve had big problems on T-Mobile in the past 3 months, brand new phone, I’m lucky if I get one bar in most areas. I’d call 611 to complain, but the call would probably drop. One things for sure though, they want my money on time. *SMH*

  • No reception at all from Union to after Chinatown. Just changed recently, used to get reception when at stopping at stations.

  • I have Verizon and I have never been able to get reception underground. But I don’t mind – I’d rather read than talk on the phone when I’m on metro.

  • This is normal for D.C. during the summer time. All those tourists wreck havoc on cell coverage (regardless of the carrier). AT&T used to bring in mobile cell trucks to help out with the issue. But lately I have not seen them so maybe the trucks are busy in a disaster area like Oklahoma or something.

    T-Mobile coverage, on the other hand, has been declining steadily for the past 6 months. It’s not just a seasonal thing for them. They really are declining in quality. And I have used them since the Voicestream days.

    • This is more than just a summer dip. Down in Chinatown metro, I used to have a decent signal on Verizon. In the past few weeks, the signal hasn’t just gotten weaker, it’s gone to absolute zero.

  • Oddly, yes. And stations that never used to have service (like Woodley Park) now do. L’Enfant, Gallery Place, etc. don’t though.

  • thebear

    10 years ago when Verizon was the *only* cell service available in Metro, it was rock solid. For the last 7-8 years, it has been spotty at best. Calling VZW to let them know about various dead spots was a waste of time. Some of their reps weren’t even aware of underground service being possible at all. I reached out to Metro a few times but that was just as useless. I pretty much don’t even bother trying to make calls or check email when in the underground sections. On the plus side, however, it is nice being able to ride without being forced to listen to people who have no courtesy, consideration, or filter blabbing about things that simply should not be discussed in public in the first place.

    • Loud phone calls in public are my number one city complaint these days. People turn off a critical thinking when they’re on calls these days. I’ve heard people blabbing out their SSNs and credit card info while on calls as well. Worst art is when someone is walking behind you and going exactly where you’re going and won’t keep a good distance and you have to hear their entire conversation. Wish people would grow a brain. >:[

  • I just noticed that Verizon service between Dupont and Farragut North disappeared recently.

  • ledroittiger

    I’ve started taking the bus so that I can stream the ballgame on my commute. Oh, and also because it’s summer and I don’t want to go back and forth to work in a rat tunnel.

  • L’Enfant went to no service with zero bars on AT&T sometime in the past couple weeks. Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Pentagon all still continue to claim to have service, but no data actually flows on most days.

  • I love how Metro keeps playing the recordings about contacting Metro police if you are in trouble, and “if you see something, say something”, when there’s now no ability to make a call in most or all of the tunnels. (And as an aside, the grammar in that “excuse me, is that your bag” announcement still makes me cringe every time I hear it, which can be several times per commute.)

  • does anyone else think that this might be a covert move to increase security?

  • Totally agree with posters… what’s sad is that I mainly use my cell to check for alerts about disruptions on the metro when various stations on the green and red lines are packed with commuters… and to let work know I would be late. But the service has dropped considerably.

    CRIME ALERT – Speaking of Metro, a friend of mine was riding the red line last night, the train at Brookland stopped and while the doors were open, she saw several young men standing by the door, like they were thinking about boarding…. then one of the young men boarded, walked to the middle of the train, swiped a man’s phone and darted out the other end. The man jumped off and my friend called the operator to report it, but I don’t think they ended up catching the thief. The man whose phone was stolen was NOT by the door, but sitting in the middle of the train. Be wary all!

    Hey Metro – if commuters are going to have to deal with weekday and weekend repairs until eternity, as well report unsavory activity – please add cell phone reception to every station and throughout the system.

    • You think the honey badgers at WMATA give a flying ^&#*? They’ve demonstrated very adequately that they don’t. Sad to see a once-reliable system mismanaged to the ground.

  • I’ve never had AT&T cell service in tunnels. Last year, I started getting cell service at most downtown stations (including Farragut North). I only take the yellow line from Convention Center to Crystal City, and there hasn’t been any cell service in tunnels or in stations at Gallery Pl, Archives and L’Enfant Plaza for at least the past week. There also isn’t any cell service on the yellow line bridge between L’Enfant and Pentagon (which I’ve always thought is odd, considering it’s outside).

    Unsurprisingly, metro isn’t even acknowledging it.

  • I noticed I no longer have service in Chinatown as well!

  • No service from Archives to U Street — thought it was only me; then realized, no, “this is metro — they can’t do anything right but the GM is making 300K salary.”

  • I have Verizon and have also lost service in the red line tunnels.

  • The thing that’s always bothered me is, even with perfect reception and the H indicator on my T-mobile phone, I can’t get or send a single byte of data from within gallery place. It’s just never worked, and as with all issues mobile, there really isn’t anyone to ask about it.

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