Phone service finally penetrates New York Subway

Sep 27, 2011 by Sebastian Smith
A man speaks on his mobile phone in May 2011 in New York City. New York's antiquated subway system finally entered the cell phone age Tuesday, but the surprise sight of signal bars popping up on screens didn't please all the Big Apple's harried commuters.

New York's antiquated subway system finally entered the cell phone age Tuesday, but the surprise sight of signal bars popping up on screens didn't please all the Big Apple's harried commuters.

Years after other major world cities and even US rivals like Boston or San Francisco began enabling phone use underground, New York's estimated 4.3 million daily straphangers can now make calls. Or at least a few can.

Just six stations in the west side of Manhattan have been given coverage, with the rest of the system, first built a century ago, due to take at least until 2016 to wire up.

Still, for New Yorkers used to seeing their beloved die as soon as they pass through the turnstiles from the street, the change is hot news.

"It's a good thing, of course. We need this," said construction worker Victor Simoni, as he headed on the L line to a job in Manhattan.

"We come all the way from the Bronx so to get there it's about an hour," his colleague Benny Djoni said. "We need it for arranging our work. It's a busy life."

Some well traveled New Yorkers expressed amazement that the city was only now taking first steps toward spreading high-tech communications below street level.

"I come from Germany and there it's very advanced. I'm not surprised, because the United States is very far from being an innovator anymore. That was last century," architect Thomas Winter, 47, said.

"Just look at the ," he added, gesturing at the dank, dirty tunnel on the L line. "When it rains, it drips through the ceiling."

Not all New Yorkers were phoning home to spread the good news about the arrival of in a few of the 277 underground stations, however.

People ride the New York City subway into Manhattan during the morning commute on September 9, in New York City. New York's antiquated subway system finally entered the cell phone age Tuesday, but the surprise sight of signal bars popping up on screens didn't please all the Big Apple's harried commuters.

Already some subway riders are feeling angst about the prospect of being in close proximity to annoying ring tones and lengthy conversations about the weather between people and their mothers.

Gawker.com published a helpful etiquette guide, starting with: "No talking. We do not want to hear your phone conversations.... Shut up!"

Another pointer: "Get out of the way. If you have to talk on the phone, do it somewhere people aren't going to bump into you." And: "Screaming does not improve reception."

Others point out that the subway will no longer be that rare haven from your boss.

Ruben Collado, a 32-year-old film maker using his phone on the L line, said his native city of Barcelona in Spain introduced phone service a decade ago and the boss issue came up there too.

"Everyone was complaining in Spain. It was the first thing they said," Collado said. "But you just keep coming up with a different story."

For Monica Santana, an actress, the end of the no-phone zone poses the almost existential threat of technology taking over life.

"I make a conscious effort not to check my too much, because you become a slave," she said.

New York's underground system has a way to go before becoming a full-on chat zone, but nostalgia is already creeping in.

"It was great knowing you could just walk into the subway and you were cut off," Collado said.

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cellphone service coming to 6 NYC subway stations

Sep 23, 2011

(AP) -- The long-delayed project to wire New York City subway stations for cellphone service is finally bearing fruit. A person close to the matter says six stations will go live with the service on Tuesday.

Subway dust may trigger lung damage

Oct 01, 2007

Subway trains produce airborne dust particles that could damage the lungs of commuters, scientists in France are reporting in a study of the Paris subway system scheduled for the October issue of ACS’ Chemical Re ...

Cellular annoyance

Jun 24, 2008

Annoying mobile communications abroad The results of a multi-national survey to be published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications reveals some surprises about cell phone use that have imp ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

Apr 17, 2014

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

that_guy
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2011
I'm sorry, I'm not into phone penetration.
Royale
5 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2011
I'm sorry, I think this whole point is ridiculous.
A) The German guy saying we don't innovate anymore because we're behind on NYC subway cell phones? How does everyone think Germany would be doing with their cell services if their country was anywhere near the size of the US?
B) You got Collado saying "It was great knowing you could just walk into the subway and you were cut off." Really Collado? All you have to do in hit that on/off button and you're cut off, in EXACTLY the same way. Voice mail still works, but nothing else does.
Are people slow, or do they just not think before they speak?
yosifcuervo
not rated yet Sep 27, 2011
C) Going into no-service zones just mercilessly drains your battery - if I was in that position I would find myself shutting it off on my way in anyway, if I was truly in for a 1-hour commute.
Skultch
1 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2011
A) The German guy saying we don't innovate anymore because we're behind on NYC subway cell phones? How does everyone think Germany would be doing with their cell services if their country was anywhere near the size of the US?


Clearly much worse. They did go digital from the get go, which was a good idea, but you can't give them too much credit, since they learned from our analog example. One thing I will give them is (was?) pricing. When I lived there in 2002-2004, all incoming texts and calls were free, AND you could still buy prepaid phones. If you wanted to be "that guy" you could have emergency service and people could contact you, pretty much for free. It just doesn't sit well with me that the US companies are effectively charging double for every call/text. I'm not sure if that's the case anymore, but I'd like to see the US companies adopt it. I would imagine that the first company to go for it will force the others to do the same.

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...