Executive Summary

The audit determined whether the wireless voice and data communication system installed by TW within certain New York City subway stations (including platforms, mezzanines, and various points within public access passageways) operates effectively.  This audit is the fourth in a series of audits of the ongoing installation of cellular and wireless services in the New York City subway system.  We found that the wireless voice and data communications system installed in the 36 Phase IV underground Manhattan and Bronx subway stations we tested operates as intended.  In addition, we found that Subway Reads, which is a partnership between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”) New York City Transit (“NYCT”), TW and Penguin Random House, that brings free electronic books through free wireless internet services to the underground subway system, also works as planned.

In 2007, following a request for proposals process, the MTA’s Board awarded a license agreement to TW that granted an exclusive license to provide commercial cellular/PCS and Wi-Fi service in 277 underground subway stations.  Under the agreement, TW acts as a neutral host, constructing the distributed antenna system within the stations (excluding the tunnels between stations) and sub-licenses rights to use that system to cellular carriers, Wi-Fi providers, and other network users.

TW installs equipment and antennas at each underground station to provide cellular and Wi-Fi coverage throughout public areas.  The in-station equipment and antennas are linked by fiber optic cables to TW trunk fiber optic cables, which run through the streets and connect back to a base station hotel (hub) that houses the head-end equipment for TW, the cellular carriers, Wi-Fi providers, and NYCT.

In addition, in August 2016, MTA, NYCT and TW partnered with Penguin Random House to begin Subway Reads, a service that allows subway riders access to five free full-length e-short stories and excerpts from a minimum of 175 full-length e-books from the publisher in categories such as fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi and fantasy, and young adults and children for periods of 10, 20, or 30 minutes each, as chosen by the rider.  The subway rider also has the ability to purchase an e-book in its entirety through this service.

TW installed the wireless network in 47 underground subway stations in Manhattan as part of Phase I (previous Audit Number SZ15-062AL), including major station complexes such as Times Square and Grand Central; 29 stations in Queens as part of Phase II (previous Audit Number SZ16-086AL); 38 additional stations in Manhattan, including the Fulton Street Terminal Center, as part of Phase III (previous Audit Number SZ17-095AL); and more recently in 36 additional Manhattan and Bronx stations as part of Phase IV (the subject of this audit).  Phase V is underway and includes stations located in lower Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.  TW is contractually required to have all 277 underground stations in New York City in service by the end of 2017.

Results 

The audit found that the wireless voice and data communication system currently installed by TW within the 36 Phase IV subway stations we tested (including platforms, mezzanines, and various points within public access passageways) operates as intended.  In addition, on October14, 2016, October 18, 2016, October 19, 2016, October 20, 2016, October 28, 2016, November 5, 2016, and November 6, 2016, we revisited the 76 stations tested in Phase I and Phase II and concluded testing for the 38 Phase III stations.  During this testing we found the wireless network to still be operational and were able to establish an immediate Wi-Fi connection.  Further, we were able to download e-books from the Penguin Random House site at the appropriate stations.  We recommend that the MTA, NYCT and TW continue their current plan to provide voice and data service to the remaining 127 underground New York City subway stations.