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Chatting Underground

New York City subway riders now have cellphone, text, and data service at six underground stations.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has launched wireless voice and data communication capability in six subway stations, allowing subway riders to make and receive cell phone calls, send tweets and receive e-mail underground.

Transit Wireless, the contractor responsible for the installation, expects to provide service to the remaining 271 underground stations within four years and has already begun design work on the next 30 stations on the west side of Manhattan, including Times Square, Herald Square and Columbus Circle. Those 30 stations are expected online in the next 12 months.

As part of the service, E911 also provides added security underground with uninterrupted access to 911 and the ability for 911 dispatchers to know when a call is being placed at street level or underground in the subway. Under agreements with the MTA and Transit Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile customers can now use their cell phones and also send and receive wireless data messages at the following six stations:

  • A, C, E station at Eighth Avenue and West 14th Street;
  • L station at Eighth Avenue and West 14th Street;
  • C, E station at Eighth Avenue and West 23rd Street;
  • 1, 2, 3 station at Seventh Avenue and West 14th Street;
  • F, M station at Sixth Avenue and West 14th Street;
  • L station at Sixth Avenue and West 14th Street.

"Bringing wireless service into our subway system is the latest milestone in the MTA's effort to use technology to improve the service we provide for our customers," said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. "Whether you're checking your email, calling your kids or looking for emergency assistance, wireless service will bring the conveniences we're used to throughout our lives into the subway system."

Transit Wireless and the carriers are paying 100 percent of the cost of the project, estimated at up to $200 million, including the cost of NYC Transit forces that provide flagging, protection and other support services. The MTA and Transit Wireless would also evenly split revenues from occupancy fees paid by the wireless carriers and other sub-licensees of the network. Transit Wireless will pay the MTA a minimum annual compensation of $3.3 million once the full build out of the network is complete.

As a neutral host, Transit Wireless welcomes all wireless carriers to sign on. AT&T and T-Mobile have agreements covering the six stations which went live today, with the option to expand as additional subway stations come on line. Negotiations with other carriers are ongoing. Transit Wireless also expects to establish sublicense arrangements with Wi-Fi providers to give customers additional data and internet access in the near future.