"This goes beyond providing cell service underground. It brings our customers a new level of security—with the ability to dial 911 in an emergency," said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. "Customers now know that when they see something, they can now say something using their device to call 911. And now with all the major carriers on board, the vast majority of MTA customers will have the ability to do so."
MTA said Verizon and Sprint are also finalizing agreements to participate in the network, meaning that all four major carriers are expected to provide cell phone and data connectivity to their customers in underground stations in the first two phases of the project.
While the network allows full cell phone and Wi-Fi connectivity, enabling voice and data functions such as phone calls, text messages, emails, music and video streaming and more, all underground, it also enables important services that improve safety and security, MTA pointed out. E911 will allow dispatchers to know when a call is being placed underground and the approximate location of the caller. Employees and first responders will also have enhanced communications capability in an emergency.
"The MTA has been on a clearly defined mission to bring our mass transit system into the 21st century with upgrades to the station environment through several ambitious new-technology communications projects like this one, aimed at improving the travel experiences of our customers while offering another level of security," said MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas F. Prendergast.
Transit Wireless and the carriers are paying 100 percent of the cost of the project, estimated at up to $200 million, including the cost of NYCT yard and right-of-way employees that provide flagging, protection, and other support services, MTA said. MTA and Transit Wireless will evenly split the revenues from occupancy fees paid by the wireless carriers and other sub-licensees of the network. Transit Wireless is paying MTA a minimum annual compensation that will grow to $3.3 million once the full buildout of the network is complete.