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The project has been in the works for five years, and Thursday's announcement marks the first phase in a multi-year plan to bring wireless communications to 277 NYC subway stations. Transit Wireless CEO Bill Bayne held a press event inside the Times Square subway station, which is among those getting service. "It is a befitting tribute to our mission to enable state-of-the-art wireless service to all of the underground subway stations by kicking it off underneath the most famous crossroads in the world: Times Square," Bayne said in a statement.
In addition to Wi-Fi service, commuters will have access to cellular networks underground. Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint have signed on as cell service providers at 36 stations -- from 14th Street to 96th Street -- joining T-Mobile and AT&T. Other partners include Alpha Technologies, which is proving backup power for the underground system, and SOLiD, which is supplying antenna system equipment.
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Transit Wireless and the MTA launched a pilot program in 2011, offering Wi-Fi and cellphone service at select stops on the L, A/C/E, and 1/2/3 subway lines. Wireless service is expected to be available at the remaining 241 subway stations by 2018 or sooner. Stations in Queens and Midtown Manhattan will be next, followed by the East Side of Manhattan and the Bronx. Subway commuters can check if their stop has access at Nycsubwaywireless.com.
Transit Wireless spent approximately $200 million to design, build, operate and maintain the system, initially partnering with Wi-Fi hotspot provider Boingo, AT&T and T-Mobile. Transit Wireless said it would split revenue generated by the system with the MTA, which is estimated to be $40 million over 10 years.
The latest development is part of New York City's continuous effort to broaden wireless network services available to residents, commuters and tourists. Ongoing projects include pay phone kiosks in the streets, "micro-trenching" fiber-optic cable to neighborhoods and wireless access in public places.
On May 4, AT&T and the MTA will host a "hackathon," where developers will compete to create apps that "solve real-world problems and enhance the transit experience of MTA's 8.5 million daily riders." Dubbed MTA App Quest, the challenge will award a total of $50,000 in prizes. Developers will have the option of building their apps using the MTA's public data and APIs.
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