New York City promises your cellphone will work in subway tunnels — in about 10 years

Jul 27, 2022

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If you’ve ever been on the New York City subway in the middle of a very important (or not-at-all important) phone call, only to have the call drop when you went through tunnels underground, relief may be in your future. You’ll have to wait up to 10 years for it, though.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced plans to expand cellphone coverage throughout the city’s subway tunnels. It will also expand Wi-Fi service at above-ground stations, as well as Staten Island Railway stations. The work won’t be fully completed, however, for a decade. In the meantime, expanded service will rollout as work is completed in various spots around the city.

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MTA plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next decade to give riders full cellphone service while on the train and in between stations. A partnership with 5G wireless infrastructure company Transit Wireless will make this feat possible on the system’s 418 miles of subway tunnels.

All underground stations have had cellphone service and Wi-Fi since 2017. However, the proposed agreement — which was approved by the MTA Finance Committee before being sent to the MTA board for full approval — would expand cellphone service and Wi-Fi connectivity to the tunnels and above-ground stations.

“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,” MTA CEO Janno Lieber said in a statement July 26. “And the deal MTA has landed will also help the MTA’s bottom line – a major concern as the pandemic winds down.”

MTA will equip the remaining 191 above-ground subway stations and 21 Staten Island Railway stations with Wi-Fi, joining the rest of the 281 underground subway stations that already have Wi-Fi.

This project is part of an ongoing effort to modernize the rider experience on the country’s largest public transit system. The service nearly reached pre-pandemic ridership levels earlier this year, with 3.5 million trips on May 5, but it’s still well below the average 5.5 million weekday riders seen in 2019, per Bloomberg.

Read more: Meet the man responsible for bringing tourists back to New York City

Featured photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images.

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