Home Subway Cell Service Transit Wireless brings Sprint on board, but is free subway wifi gone?

Transit Wireless brings Sprint on board, but is free subway wifi gone?

by Benjamin Kabak
A screenshot of my phone captured recently at Times Square.

A screenshot of my phone captured recently at Times Square.

When the MTA and Transit Wireless gathered to debut their expansion of underground cell service and free wifi, I thought things went off pretty smoothly. Following the April launch, I used the system regularly, and while having to authenticate through the 15-second pre-roll ad at each station became annoying, the service was speedy and reliable. And then I went on vacation.

For 10 days in late June and early July, I was out of town, and upon my return, the free wifi was anything but. Instead of a preroll ad, I was greeted with the screenshot you see at right. Boingo was trying to convince me to pony up some money for the service, and I had assumed that Transit Wireless had lost a sponsor. I asked the MTA about the service, and a spokesman said it still should be free. I, however, have had no luck connecting in the three weeks I’ve been back in the city. I’m curious to hear if others are having the same problem.

Of course, for most people, this isn’t a big problem. AT&T and T-Mobile are already providing cellular and data service underground, and the wifi was a bonus. It allows users to avoid chewing up data and is speedier than the cell networks’ services, but it’s a luxury. Eventually, all four major carriers will offer their high-speed services underground, and as of today, in fact, we’re just waiting on Verizon.

As The Wall Street Journal reported this morning, Sprint has come to terms with Transit Wireless, and the carrier’s signal will soon be snaking its way into subway stations. Those with Sprint, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile can look forward to a signal at the 36 current stations in early 2014, and Transit Wireless will now include those carriers as it expands its offerings to another 40 stations throughout the first part of 2014.

I’m with Verizon, and there’s still no word of when this telecom and Transit Wireless will reach a deal. So for now, I’m stuck with a service trying to charge me and no other underground wifi access. The future — free Internet while waiting for a train — was so fleeting and so wonderful. I hope it comes back again soon.

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thedudeandwalter July 24, 2013 - 4:10 pm

Any idea what those next 40 stations are?

Matt July 24, 2013 - 4:16 pm

I have a Windows Phone on TMobile, and I was never able to successfully login to the free WiFi

Mike July 24, 2013 - 4:37 pm

I think the free wifi availability may vary by station. I was able to connect to it at 96th St/Broadway early last week.

Metsgl July 24, 2013 - 5:14 pm

I was just at the 49th street NQR station and it worked free without an ad.

vb July 24, 2013 - 7:28 pm

There are 2 wi-fi networks in the 5th Ave/59th St station. One is free, the other is Boingo.
Never tried to connect to either of them though. I get LTE service from T-Mobile in there and it’s plenty fast enough to check the mta service updates while waiting 2 minutes for your train.

alen July 24, 2013 - 7:30 pm

the LTE service is meh. dreamed about it for a long time and now that its here its good for texting people and checking email.

the wifi service that requires you view a video was useless

SEAN July 24, 2013 - 8:11 pm

Boingo can also be found on some airlines, but there’s a charge for the service. I could be wrong, but I think Alaska & Hawaiian are the ones who offer it.

Epson45 July 24, 2013 - 8:16 pm

Boingo is everywhere especially at JFK. There is a workaround if you bypass the stupid idiotic paywall Boingo page…

Kai B July 25, 2013 - 10:45 am

They have an in-app purchase option in their iOS app, 99 cents for one hour. Useful at the airport, probably not that useful for a <10 minute subway wait, particularly if you already have access to cellular data on your device.

Roxie July 24, 2013 - 11:46 pm

I thought Sprint was supposed to be on board the last time we heard about the Transit Wireless initiative… Guess I just wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, it’s about time.

Kai B July 25, 2013 - 10:43 am

Free wi-fi networks are often ridiculously slow. I usually stay on my carrier’s LTE, which is several times faster. Honestly, seeing that you’re not spending hours in a subway station, I don’t see much use for the wi-fi option other than for international tourists who can use it to quickly catch up on their email/social networks since they can’t use cellular data due to roaming charges. I find it unlikely that they would use the paid option, however, unless they are already a Boingo user for another reason.

Jason B July 25, 2013 - 4:27 pm

The free wifi worked for me for a few weeks. The name of the network was “FreeWifiByHTCOne” or something like that, which agreed with the blue signs posted in various stations. However at some point around a month ago, this network name disappeared and was replaced by “FreeWifiByBoingo”. Fine, the name isn’t important, and the new one worked as well as the earlier one (still had the video, which I don’t care about).

But now the “FreeWifiByBoingo” is no longer free, I get the $7.95 screen Ben has posted above. This is currently the case at every station I’ve tried (57th/6th & rockefeller/6th are the main ones I use).

Maybe they lost a sponsor, that’s fine. But it’s annoying if it’s due to sheer dimwittedness.

There’s a piece on forbes about it: http://www.forbes.com/sites/st.....iple-fail/

anon_coward December 13, 2013 - 4:10 pm

anyone notice that verizon LTE is now working in some of the stations?

Benjamin Kabak December 13, 2013 - 4:12 pm

Yeah. It’s been working for a while. I covered this one back in August.

anon_coward December 13, 2013 - 4:14 pm

i know they signed up as a partner, but i’ve noticed that my verizon phone only started working at some stations in the last few weeks.


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