T-Mobile, ATandT to Provide Mobile Service in NYC Subway

A plan to bring mobile phone service to NYC subway stations has its ups and downs, New Yorkers say.

Your commute just got louder: Transit Wireless announced it has reached an agreement with critical communications specialist Broadcast Australia for the delivery of wireless communications infrastructure in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's New York City subway stations. Network operators AT&T and T-Mobile USA signed 10-year contracts to access Transit's network. Sure to provoke reactions positive and negative from straphangers, the work will commence "shortly" to establish wireless communications infrastructure in six Manhattan stations by 2012.
One of the system's features will allow the source of a cell phone's signal to be located within a station, allowing better response times from emergency service providers and 911 call center operators. This system is already available and used by emergency services above ground. This project will also facilitate the use of cell phones, computers and other electronic communications devices in subway stations.
Broadcast Australia, which took a majority stake in Transit Wireless in July, helped ensure the $200 million project's development after years of delay. Broadcast Australia also owns Radio Frequency Engineering, the company responsible for providing wireless infrastructure for Hong Kong's subway system. While service will be available within stations, users will still not be able to talk between them; subway riders will have to wait until at least 2016 for that privilege/annoyance.
The establishment of this infrastructure will enhance safety and efficiency for subway users, the company said, though there were no statements regarding the potential explosion of loud, obnoxious conversation during the morning commute. "New York subway commuters, workers and emergency responders are today a step closer to enjoying wireless voice and data connectivity in New York City subway stations," said Transit Wireless CEO Chris Jaeger. "We look forward to working closely with MTA and the cellular carriers to achieve this."
Q-Wireless CEO Alex Mashinsky told BusinessWeek that Transit Wireless will begin deployment of "smoke detector-size antennas" within the next two months. The project will cost about $200 million to complete, not including the $46 million Transit Wireless will have to pay the transit authority, Mashinsky said in an interview. Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for New York City Transit, told the magazine the first six stations will include those for "several trains along 14th Street at Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Avenues and at 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue."
This is the first step of the MTA's plan to provide wireless coverage in all the city's 277 underground stations. Jamie Kelso, a marketing manager who works in Manhattan for the International Rescue Committee, said having mobile phone service in the stations is just enough to be handy. "I'm glad there won't be service between stations on the train," she said. "In a city like New York, riding the subway is the one space that's actually quiet, and I'm not sure I want to give that up for cellular convenience."
Kelso, who lives in Brooklyn, said she's looking forward to being able to make calls or send texts in the subway stations. "With no cellular reception in the subways now, it's hard to let someone know when you'll be getting somewhere, especially when you may end up waiting for your train on the platform for long periods of time," she said.

Manhattan-based author Grant Ginder said he would also find use in the cell coverage. "At least now I'll be able to focus on my own conversation as opposed to the annoying NYU girls sitting next to me," he said.