After being delayed for 3 years – mostly due to the budget problems linked to the economic recession – the project to deploy a wireless network on the platforms – and portions of the tunnels – of the entire NYC subway grid has been restarted. Work will start soon, with a budget of $200 million, so New York has a service that other cities such as Singapore, Tokyo and Berlin have had for years. Barcelona’s subway network has provided cell phone coverage for the last 6 years or so as well and, by last May’09, 3G network was available on an 82% of the stations and tunnels.

It is interesting to mention that NYC’s subway will provide WiFi coverage as well. This, on one hand, is easier than providing 3G signal and, on the other hand, probably means that there will be no 3G coverage because one can browse the web using her or his iPhone through 802.11 instead.

From Bloomberg news:

Transit Wireless will begin installing smoke detector-size antennas in six stations within the next two months, said Alex Mashinsky, chief executive officer of Q-Wireless Inc., one of the companies participating in the group. Stations could be completed at a rate of 10 to 15 per month, he said.

The project will cost about $200 million to complete, not including the $46 million Transit Wireless will have to pay the transit authority, Mashinsky said.

Transit Wireless has already completed much of the planning work, including blueprints and surveying work, said Jaeger.

Once the project is done, riders will have mobile service on the platform, mezzanines and portions of the tunnels, Jaeger said. Carriers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. would pay Transit Wireless to use its network.

This is clearly something to be excited about. I just have one thought, though. NYC has, by far, the loudest subway trains I’ve ever seen – and heard – ; sometimes it is quite complicated to actually listen to my iPod while riding the metro. The thing is that – for example – Barcelona’s subway is quite quiet, both in the trains and on the platforms when the train arrive, but it is still a bit challenging to have an actual conversation on the phone de to the noise. I do not see it possible at all to make a phone call in NYC’s subway; texting and browsing the web while riding the trains will be great, though.