NYC Subways Closer to Wi-Fi and Cell Service
Three years after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City announced a deal to set up cellular and wireless connections in subway stations, the agency has finally signed off on construction plans to begin the project, starting as early as the next 12 to 18 months.
The wireless base stations will be housed in all 277 subway stations throughout the city, and Wi-Fi signals can be picked up inside trains only when they are within range.
“Even now, there are some signals leaking into the stations coming through the ventilation decks and into the tunnels,” said Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Q-Wireless, one of four companies working to install the wireless service.
“This will be more constant and the signal will be stronger. And when you walk into the station, your service will be dramatically extended.”
Wi-Fi access may not be always reachable deep inside the tunnels, but Mashinksky told TechNewsDaily that “disruption will be very minimal. If you are playing on your phone and you don’t have coverage, you won’t be able to feel it.”
The need for Wi-Fi and cell phone signals in the New York City subway systems has been a hot topic for the past few years, but the project was put on hold.
"This project was stalled for too long, and we will be working with the contractor to make up as much time as possible," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin told the New York Daily News.
Transit Wireless now has two years to wire six stations to test the technology, under the agreement. The six stations were not named.
Boston and Washington D.C. already have similar services.
“About seven million daily commuters using the New York City underground system are cut off from friends and family for about an hour and a half each day,” Q-Wireless's Mashinsky said. “We are overbuilding the networks so we can provide connections to these sites the highest speeds possible, including 3G and 4G.”
“Unlike outdoor spots and Wi-Fi in parks where distance kills your ability to gain access quickly, you will still be able to connect at high speeds. However, riders will be sharing the network with others that are logged in. Less busy stations will likely have faster connections,” he added.
However, New Yorkers will only get service if cell phone companies reach an agreement with Transit Wireless.
“Riders will have to voice that this is indeed a service they want,” Mashinsky said. “We haven’t signed any vendors just yet – this also means we don’t know whether or not the service will be complimentary or if there will be a fee.”
Mashinksky predicts that will take about “six years to build it out the entire city, but we hope to do it faster.”
Q-Wireless is also working to out wireless connections in car services and limousines, such as LimoRes Car & Limo Service (LimoRes.com), throughout the city. The service will be free for passengers.