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
  • GTFS-RT
  • 2 fare payment validators
Unlimited
  • GTFS-RT
  • 2 fare payment validators
  • Cameras
  • CAD/AVL

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
(NASPO)
AT&T
(CalNet + NASPO)
T-Mobile
(CalNet + NASPO)
Verizon
(CalNet + NASPO)
Tiers
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.

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

Where can I access the data plan rates?

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

FirstNet data plan rates are available through the self-service instructions on the Data Plan Procurement Self-Service Instructions.

CalNet supports a dedicated page with self-service instructions to access these rate plans. View Cellular Data Plans for CA Agencies.

New data plan options

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

FirstNet created data plans tailored for transit agencies at a competitive price. The tiers incentivize more collective purchases and were designed 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. For agencies purchasing hardware devices from the California Mobility Marketplace, the table below summarizes what networks each device is certified to operate on.

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].

If your device is not eligible for FirstNet, you may still be able to get the same rates on the commercial AT&T network. Please contact the FirstNet representatives above to learn more.