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    Friday
    Jul302010

    Subway tunnels, not just stations, set to get Wi-Fi, cell signals

    Cell phones may start ringing on subway trains after all.

    When underground subway stations are wired for cellular and Wi-Fi service, the signals won't end at platform edges, an executive involved in the project said.

    That means coverage will extend from station to station - where stops are relatively close to each other and tunnels are wide enough - keeping straphangers plugged in.

    "That's how it works," said Alex Mashinsky, CEO of Q-Wireless, one of four corporations that make up the joint venture installing the wireless service. "That's the physics of it."

    Cell service could be strongest in wider tunnels with express and local tracks, like in Manhattan, since signals need space to propagate, Mashinsky said. 

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority struck a contract with Transit Wireless to outfit stations - but not tunnels - for cellular and Wi-Fi service nearly three years ago. The agency just signed off on engineering and financial plans for the project, enabling Transit Wireless to start construction.

    "This project was stalled for too long, and we will be working with the contractor to make up as much time as possible," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

    Some straphangers will be excited about staying plugged in underground, while others will undoubtedly frown upon losing their cell phone-free zone, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said.

    Transit Wireless has up to two years to outfit six stations to test the technology, under the agreement.

    The corporation then has four more years to rig up the rest of the 277 underground stations. Riders will only get service if their cell phone companies reach an agreement with Transit Wireless, Mashinsky said.

    "If consumers really want this, they are going to have to make some noise," he said.

     

    Originally written by Pete Donohue at Daily News 

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