mobile phones In Subway Stations? Not So Fast


Is mobile phone service finally on the way for the New York subway’s 277 underground stations? Transit Wireless, a joint venture of construction and wireless firms, will pay the MTA at least $46.8 million over 10 years for the right to wire the stations, and will also foot the bill for building out the network, NYT reports. But before you can use your phone in the subway, the company has to clear an important hurdle: getting carriers like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) to sign on and pay Transit Wireless to carry their signals on the network.

Gary Simpson, president of Nab Construction — one of the Transit Wireless partners — is confident that the carriers will want to participate. But so far, he tells us, none has signed on. Simpson says discussions will take place after their deal is officially approved.

It seems logical that wireless companies would want their subscribers to be able to use their service underground — that’s more potential voice minutes, text messages, and content the carriers can ring up. But will they want to pay for it? The Times says a consortium of the major mobile phone providers, including Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel (S), also bid on the right to wire the stations, offering a total payment of just $40 over 10 years. And that’s not a typo.

Updated: Crain’s contacted the major carriers for comment:

A spokesman for Sprint Nextel said the company will review the fees and determine if it makes sense for the company to participate. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile would not comment on their plans. AT&T Wireless, which was a member of a competing consortium that bid on the subway project, declined to comment because it said the MTA had not informed the company of its decision.

See Also: Google To Map NYC Subway (Finally)