New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced a public-private partnership to provide cell coverage throughout all 418 track miles of subway tunnels, along with an expansion of Wi-Fi service to all 191 above-ground subway and 21 Staten Island Railway stations.
Transit customers currently enjoy cellular and Wi-Fi service at all 281 underground subway stations through Transit Wireless, a BAI Communications Co. A proposed expansion would transform the subway system into a fully digitally connected transit network that gives riders the ability to use their mobile devices throughout the entire subway system.
“Bringing cell connectivity to the tunnels between stations and Wi-Fi to above-ground stations is a major step forward in enhancing transit riders’ experience,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “And the deal MTA has landed will also help the MTA’s bottom line — a major concern as the pandemic winds down.”
All underground stations currently have cell service and Wi-Fi. The proposed agreement would expand this to provide connectivity in the tunnels between stations and in above-ground stations. Further, it will enable Transit Wireless to improve the existing MTA communication system and generate revenue by marketing unused fiber to private customers. Transit Wireless would design, build, and operate a neutral-host network that provides every subway tunnel in the system with a wireless communication connection.
In recent years, the MTA has made significant strides improving connectivity, which included partnering with Transit Wireless to bring cell service and Wi-Fi to all underground subway stations in 2017, and in 2020, bringing cellular coverage and data connectivity to the L Train tunnel. The connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the L line became the first tunnel in the New York City subway system to have full connectivity, for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile customers.
Overall, the project is expected to result in over $1 billion in benefit for the MTA and its customers over the life of the agreement in terms of service provided, additional revenue and cost savings. Work on the project will begin immediately and be completed in 10 years. Riders will be able to use the new services as each section is completed.