MTA 2011 Highlights: Cell Phone Service Underground

In 2011, the MTA focused on delivering on some long-promised benefits for our 8.5 million customers. This is the third in a daily series that recaps the best of 2011.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched wireless voice and data communication capability in six subway stations earlier this year, 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 year.

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.

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. 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.