At last! Starting today, the MTA is switching on wireless connectivity in 30 underground subway stations around Manhattan.
Wireless connectivity will expand to all of the MTA’s 277 subway stations within the next four years. The MTA also announced that all four major cellular carriers would be expanding their coverage underground, bringing phone and data connectivity to millions of NYC’s commuters.
It may seem a little silly that it’s taken the MTA so long to finally kick things off. TechCrunch first heard news of MTA and Transit Wireless’ intention to build an underground wireless network way back in 2007. But it’s worth noting that New York City’s subway system is 109 years old, and building a new wireless infrastructure in century old tunnels is no easy task.
Usage of the wireless network will be completely free through Boingo Wireless’ advertising and sponsorship platform. At the moment, the wireless network in Times Square is being sponsored by the HTC One. The SSID of the network is “FreeWifiByHTCONE”, and before you connect to the network it shows you a fifteen second HTC One commercial.
The MTA is also bringing cell phone coverage to its vast underground mass transit system. AT&T and T-Mobile users can make and receive calls underground, and Verizon and Sprint are currently finalizing agreements with the MTA to expand coverage to their users as well.
“The future is not only bright, but the future is also connected,” extolled William A. Bayne Jr., CEO of Transit Wireless.
How did MTA’s wireless network perform in practice? Well, I wrote a part of this post on my phone, connected to the Wi-Fi in the Times Square Station. Although the connection is pretty speedy, it disconnected every ten minutes or so before taking a couple of seconds to connect again.
So it isn’t perfect. But it sure is a hell of a lot better than nothing at all.
You can find a list of the MTA’s subway stations that are now connected with Wi-Fi here.