Verizon Wireless customers can soon expect to see some service bars on their mobile phones when they're in 36 of the more heavily trafficked subway stations.
Verizon announced Aug. 20 that it has finalized an agreement with Transit Wireless—the organization that operates the wireless network in the New York subway system—which means Verizon customers will have access to 3G and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) voice and data services "later this year."
"We have now secured partnerships with all four major wireless carriers to bring the vast majority of New Yorkers, visitors, government agency personnel, transit employees, contractors and first responders the ability to be connected in the stations we've constructed—a real milestone."
Over the next few weeks, Verizon plans to install its "Base Station Hotel facilities" in the 36 stations already offering wireless service via AT&T and T-Mobile and Sprint.
Sprint finalized its contract with Transit Wireless July 24, while AT&T and T-Mobile announced their deals April 25, alongside Boingo Wireless, which is offering WiFi service.
The initial stations include Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle and other stops between 14th Street and 86th Street on the west side of Manhattan.
Verizon, in a statement, noted that the subway investment comes on top of the more than $3 billion that it has already invested in its infrastructure regionally, and that it's "always exploring opportunities" to expand network coverage, both
"above ground or below."
Verizon also plans to participate in Phase 2 of the Transit Wireless project, which will bring online an additional 40 stations, including Grand Central Station, 34th St. Herald Square, Bryant Park and stations on Manhattan's east side and in the borough of Queens.
"The ability to make and receive phone calls underground is an important improvement for safety and security as well as convenience, and our customers will certainly appreciate it," said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast.
The city's campaign to "allow riders to maintain their digital lifestyle" runs counter to an earlier theft-reduction effort that included posters telling subway riders,
"Don't play dumb with your smartphone."
MTA officials insisted, back in April, that the Transit Bureau was stepping up security, and that people should "feel as comfortable using [their phones] underground as they do outside."
More feet on the ground won't prevent information theft, however, and so the Transit Wireless and Boingo encourage anyone using the public WiFi network to also use a virtual private network (VPN).
Boingo's free Wi-Finder app includes a free personal VPN for iOS and Android devices, as well as Windows and iOS-running laptops.
The pair also suggest not logging on to highly personal sites, like banking sites, while waiting for a train, and to stick to trusted WiFi providers. The Boingo network is currently sponsored by HTC, and can be found under the name FreeWifibyHTCONE.
The full list of stations with wireless service can be viewed on the Transit Wireless site.