How to Get Connected

Whether enabling passengers to tap to pay with mobile wallets or to see the live location of a bus on their phone map, transit is leveraging cellular data and connectivity to modernize and improve the rider experience.

California is making it easier for public transit providers to get the data plans they need through Master Service Agreements (MSAs) established by the California Department of General Services (DGS). These data plans are available to agencies with the pre-negotiated rates listed.

Reach out to us for support at any time as your agency explores these resources.

Getting started

What is connectivity?

From accepting mobile wallets for fare payments to giving the live location of a bus, transit is using more technology to improve the rider experience. Cellular data is the power behind this new technology. Types of devices may include:

  • Router
  • CAD/AVL (Computer-Aided Dispatch / Automatic Vehicle Location)
  • Camera feeds
  • Passenger WiFi

As transit continues to modernize, more devices can be expected to leverage cellular data and connectivity.

How do data plans work?

Your technology can be connected through multiple SIMs (one per device) or a single SIM (one in a router).

Multiple SIMs

Each device could be powered by a SIM that connects to the network. These SIMs would have smaller data plans.

Devices connect to network.

Single SIM

A single router could provide connectivity to multiple devices. The router’s SIM would need a larger data plan.

Router connects to network. Devices connect to router.

How do I get started?

We welcome you to browse this guide to understand the process and your next steps. Data plans can be found on our contracts page. If you are interested in purchasing the FirstNet data plans, self-serve instructions can be found here.

Should you have additional questions or want support in implementing data plans for your fleet, we ask that you complete our contact form for Cal-ITP support.

Contact us

Choosing a data plan

How much data do I need?

How much data you use depends on how many devices are on each vehicle. Typical usage for GTFS software and two fare payment validators is 3 GB/month.

1 GB
  • GTFS-RT or 1 fare payment validator
2 GB
  • 2 fare payment validators
  • 2 fare payment validators
  • Cameras

What carriers are available to purchase data plans from?

We currently have contracts with:

  • AT&T
  • FirstNet
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

Carriers provide different coverage depending on location, so it is important to evaluate which best covers your service area. You can use FCC data to evaluate Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T coverage. You can review FirstNet coverage on their website.

What if I need to change carriers?

If you already have a data plan, you can switch by either immediately canceling your current contract or by not renewing upon contract expiration.

If your contract is month-to-month, you can simply switch once your new contract is in place. This process tends to be easier and more seamless.

If your contract is on a fixed time period, you can switch when the old one expires. You will need to sync the start of the new contract with the expiration of the old one to reduce the risk of service lapse.

What are the data plan prices?

All four major carriers offer data-only plans that agencies can leverage. You can access data plans in the commercial marketplace or at discounted rates on CalNet or on NASPO.

Note: Prices shown are the lowest available between CalNet and NASPO for that size plan
Carrier FirstNet
(CalNet + NASPO)
(CalNet + NASPO)
(CalNet + NASPO)
Tier 1
< 3,000 SIMs
Tier 2
3k - 9,999 SIMs
Tier 3
>9,999 SIMs
- - -
1 GB $10.00 $7.50 $4.99 $20.00 $8.00 $15.00
2 GB N/A N/A N/A $23.00 $10.00 $20.00
3 GB $25.00 $20.00 $14.99 $30.00 N/A N/A
5 GB N/A N/A N/A $28.00 $21.21 $25.00
25 GB $34.00 $34.00 $29.99 N/A N/A N/A
Unlimited N/A N/A N/A $50.00 N/A $34.99

In California, transit providers can access the FirstNet plan for their fleets. And Tier II prices are now available to all California agencies!

Interested in tapping these rates? Contact us to get started today! Our team is happy to answer questions and guide you through the process.

Get in touch

New data plan options

What is FirstNet? How is it different from other broadband or emergency responder networks?

The FirstNet network was created and is sustained through a contract with the Federal Government. It is designed to offer a dedicated network for approved first responders. In California, transit providers are considered first responders and can access the FirstNet network.

FirstNet is different from other cellular networks in that it provides priority for first responders automatically. This limits the potential for you to lose critical service capabilities during demanding times. In comparison to local emergency responder networks, FirstNet provides broadband voice, data, and video capabilities whereas typical emergency responder networks provide voice services.

Why do the FirstNet plans have tiers? What do these tiers mean?

Cal-ITP worked with FirstNet to create data plans tailored for transit agencies at a competitive price. The tiers incentivize more collective purchases and were designed by FirstNet to enable discounted rates in a way that works for their business case.

The FirstNet tier prices are based on bulk volume purchased on that contract vehicle, (i.e., total number purchased by all agencies combined, not the number of SIMs purchased by an individual agency). Tier II pricing is guaranteed through March 2024. When the Tier III threshold is reached, all agencies will see their plans further discounted.

Can FirstNet be used for any device and use case?

FirstNet only works for operations-facing use cases, given it is a first responder network. This means it cannot be used for passenger WiFi. Additionally, devices are required to have an additional security certification to operate on the federal network. This certification is common but not universal and should be confirmed before purchase.

A FirstNet representative can verify eligibility for your specific use cases and also confirm network compatibility with your devices. You can contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].

My agency is interested in purchasing a FirstNet data plan. How long will a purchase take?

The purchase timeline is anticipated to take anywhere from 10 to 14 weeks, assuming that the start date begins with the Official Notice of Receipt and concludes with SIM delivery.

The installation timeline will vary based on if the agency or subcontractor will be responsible for installing the SIMs.

More information and the self-service instructions are available on the Data Plan Procurement Self-Service Instructions.

Where can I access the non-FirstNet data plan rates in the table above?

Data plan rates for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon can be found on either CalNet or on NASPO.

CalNet supports a dedicated page with self-service instructions to access these rate plans, which can be found here.