Photo: MTA

Subway Tunnels to Be Wired for Cell Service Between Stations; Wi-Fi to Come to All 191 Above-Ground Subway and 21 Staten Island Railway Stations

Project Will Result in Over $1 Billion in Benefit for Transit Customers and MTA

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today 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 Company. 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.” 

“We live in a digitally connected world and serve a city that is always on the go,” said NYC Transit President Richard Davey. “Having uninterrupted network connection underground will reimagine how New Yorkers travel by providing the opportunity to take advantage of every minute of their commute with cell service and internet connection, which can also ease any traveling obstacles visitors face when trying to navigate the system. We look forward to using the enhanced connectivity to improve the service information we provide for customers.” 

“This latest advancement in technology will coordinate with other work throughout the system to fit out hundreds of miles of tunnels to enable cell service between stations and support MTA operational needs,” said MTA President of Construction and Development Jamie Torres-Springer. “We look forward to closing the remaining cellular coverage and data connectivity gaps in our subway system.” 

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. 

“We are proud to expand our partnership with the MTA and provide NYC’s subway riders with world-class end-to-end internet, data, and cellular communications,” said Transit Wireless CEO Melinda White. “Expansion of the riders’ connectivity through the tunnels and across the above-ground stations shows MTA’s ongoing commitment to the rider experience.” 

$1 Billion Benefit to Transit Riders and MTA 

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. 

Transit Wireless will build out the necessary infrastructure, an investment likely to be over $600 million. This build leverages the company’s existing infrastructure located throughout NYC. As the system is built out, the MTA will share in the revenues Transit Wireless receives from cell providers and other commercial customers, adding to the revenue from the station agreement. Further, the MTA will phase out the payments it currently makes to Transit Wireless for additional communication services such as leased fiber, real-time train arrival information and Help Points, the communication system that offers immediate access to 911 assistance and information with the touch of a button. 

Between the increase in revenue from the extension of agreement with Transit Wireless and elimination of annual payments for additional communication services, the MTA will see a combined advantage worth $410 million. 

About Transit Wireless 

Transit Wireless is a leading 5G wireless infrastructure company that provides cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity to large infrastructure projects including the New York City subway system. Transit Wireless and its majority shareholder BAI Communications, finances, designs, builds, operates and maintains wireless networks to connect millions of customers each day.