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Cell phone service comes to some NYC subway stations

After years of delays, AT&T and T-Mobile customers will be able to use their cell phones in select stations in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read

New Yorkers will finally be able to use their cell phones in subway stations--as long as their commute takes them through one neighborhood in Manhattan.

The 6 line in New York, one of the train lines that still won't get cellular service. MTA

The New York Times reported yesterday that cellular service will come to four stations starting Tuesday. AT&T and T-Mobile customers will be able to make phone calls, send text messages, and browse the Internet on their phone underground--something that's virtually impossible today. The deployment is extremely limited: only four stations in the Chelsea neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan.

The initial launch, which acts as a pilot program for a wider rollout of service across the New York subway system, will occur at the C and E platforms at 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue; the A, C, E and L platforms on 14th Street and Eight Avenue; the F, M, and L platforms at the Avenue of the Americas and 14th Street; and the 1, 2 and 3 platforms at the Seventh Avenue station, also on 14th Street. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel customers won't be able to get the service.

Delays both from city approving cellular service and then with the actual deployment kept cell phones from working in the stations. The network provider, Transit Wireless, signed a contract with the city four years ago and had promised to begin a trial in downtown Manhattan two years ago. But the project stagnated last year because Transit needed to obtain additional financing, the New York Times said.

At the same time, subway stations in San Francisco and Boston have long offered cell phone service. Even now, the service in the New York stations will stop once the train goes into the tunnels. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which has long sought to hook up the city's subway station to the cellular network, hopes to the begin a wider deployment if the pilot program is successful. The trial has no targeted end date.

Ask several New Yorkers about getting cellular signals down in the station, and you're likely to get many drastically different answers. For some, having service in the station is a godsend, allowing them to stay in touch or keep sending e-mails through a long commute. Others, however, enjoy the brief respite from having to be connected all the time.