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New York City Subway Tunnels To Get Cellphone Service

by SharonKurheg

You can say a lot about the New York City Subway. It’s safe (except when it’s not). The temperature on the cars is like a wheel of fortune – it could be 60 degrees, could be 90. A lot of the speakers sound like any adult on a Charlie Brown special (“Wah wah wahwahwah wah-wah”). And you may or may not be stuck next to someone who smells bad.

But there are good points. For example, some of the lines are running faster than they ever have (which saves you time). And all 281 of the subway’s underground stations have had free public Wi-Fi and cell service since 2017.

And now the NYC subway is going to REALLY join modern times. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA – they run the subway) just announced that the one place where you can’t get cell service in the city – inside the subway’s tunnels, between the stations – will soon (well, sorta) have phone access.

I say “sorta” because this won’t be a quick project. Crews will need to install infrastructure along 418 miles of underground track (that’s about roughly the distance from New York City to Raleigh, NC) without interrupting other services. But once they do, locals and visitors alike will be able to use their cell phones at any time while on the subway, not just at the stations.

The $600 million project will be paid for and built by Transit Wireless. They’re the New York-based communications infrastructure company that’s currently providing the aforementioned cell and Wi-Fi service to the subway’s underground subway stations. The project will also expand Wi-Fi service to all 191 aboveground stations, as well as to the 21 stations on the Staten Island Railway.

The project is currently in a design phase but once work on the project starts, subway passengers will be able to use their cell phones as each section of the tunnel system is completed (no word yet on which train lines will be worked on first). Users will be able to connect to cellular data as long as they’re signed up for service through a major cellphone network provider (i.e. AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon), exactly the same as they now when they’re not in the subway.

The project will be similar to those in Northern California, London and Seoul – all three cities are in the midst of increasing their cell capabilities on their respective trains and subways.

Feature Photo: MTA Photos / flickr / cc-by-2.0

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