These Manhattan Subway Stations Have the Best Wi-Fi and Cell Service


The Q line came out on top in a study conducted this summer of Wi-Fi and cellphone service at more than 60 Manhattan stations. But while the service at stations might be strong, there’s still little you can do between them — and some stations listed as having Wi-Fi actually are offline.

“Ultimately, the good news is there are a significant number of stations that now are active with perfect success rates and really strong throughputs,” says Paul Carter, the CEO at Global Wireless Solutions, which tested the cellphone and Wi-Fi service in June. The company contracts with cellphone service providers to test their digital antenna systems, and has tested cell service at New York bars on St. Patrick’s Day, as well as at pubs in London and at Fenway Park. (The company has no relationship with the MTA.)

Wearing backpacks stuffed with equipment to rate connection speeds, the testers visited 67 subway stations using a list posted on the website of Transit Wireless, the company formed to meet the MTA’s requirement that wireless service be extended to underground subway stations.

Six of those stations didn’t return any Wi-Fi signal on two separate visits, Carter says. That’s because there was no Wi-Fi signal to be found: A rep for Transit Wireless says five of those stations were “listed in error” on the website, and a sixth station, the one at Lexington Avenue/53rd Street on the E and M lines, is scheduled to have Wi-Fi installed “in future phases of the project” — but there’s nothing there now.

However, Transit Wireless says it is on schedule “to wire all 279 underground stations by 2017, several months ahead of schedule.”

But where there was Wi-Fi, the signal was strong. Carter tells the Voice: “I think we found that in 42 of the stations both AT&T and T-Mobile had a 100 percent success rate.” Verizon also fared well but the fourth big provider, Sprint, had the lowest scores across the board. The lines with the weakest signals were the 4/5 and J/Z. The weakest Wi-Fi was found at stations along the 4/5/6 IRT line.

But while the service is good at stations, that doesn’t help passengers looking to send an email between them.

“That’s obviously the issue, right?” Carter says. “It’s very hard to wire coverage down the tunnels, so they have to find a solution — a leaky coaxial cable, perhaps,” he says, referring to a coaxial cable that radiates radio waves and acts as an extension of an antenna. “But I don’t know if there’s space.”

Finally, the ratings were based on sample size, which gave some lines the advantage: “The Q line, for example, had seven stations active out of ten,” Carter explains. “Whereas, if you go down to the 1 line, that has twelve out of twenty-four [stations active], so that’s a 70 percent factor vs. 50 percent.”

That said, here are the rankings:

Subway Lines With the Best Combined Mobile and Wi-Fi Rating
1. Q
2. B
3. R
4. N
5. A
6. C
7. F
8. 2
9. D
10. M
11. L
12. E
13. 1
14. 3
15. 6
16. J
17. Z
18. 4
19. 5

Subway Lines With the Best Mobile Rating
1. Q
2. 6
3. R
4. N
5. D
6. M
7. L
8. E
9. 2
10. 1
11. 4
12. B
13. F
14. A
15. C
16. 3
17. 5
18. J
19. Z

Subway Lines With the Best Wi-Fi Rating
1. B
2. A
3. C
4. Q
5. F
6. R
7. 2
8. N
9. M
10. D
11. L
12. J
13. Z
14. 3
15. 1
16. E
17. 6
18. 5
19. 4

The rankings are determined by upload and download speeds, throughputs, and task success reliability on the Wi-Fi network, and across the four major carriers (Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile). Not included are the 7 and S due to the limited stops in Manhattan, with the 7 primarily being in Queens.

And here are the subway stations tested, with their corresponding lines:

Fifth Avenue / 59th Street — N, Q, R
Fifth Avenue / 53rd Street — E, M
86th Street — 1, 2
23rd Street — 1, 2
49th Street — N, Q, R
86th Street — A, B, C
50th Street — A, C, E
18th Street — 1, 2
57th Street–Seventh Avenue — N, Q, R
57th Street — F
72nd Street — A, B, C
28th Street — 4, 6
81st Street–Museum of Natural History — A, B, C
96th Street — A, B, C
28th Street — 1, 2
28th Street — N, Q, R
23rd Street — 4, 6
79th Street — 1, 2
Seventh Avenue — B, D, E
33rd Street — 4, 6
23rd Street — F, M
Times Square–42nd Street — N, Q, R
96th Street — 1, 2, 3
Times Square–42nd Street— 1, 2, 3
66th Street–Lincoln Center — 1, 2
47th–50th streets – Rockefeller Center — B, D, F, M
50th Street — 1, 2
23rd Street — N, Q, R
42nd Street–Bryant Park — B, D, F, M
42nd Street–Port Authority Bus Terminal — A, C, E
59th Street–Columbus Circle — A, B, C, D
59th Street–Columbus Circle — 1, 2
Sixth Avenue — L
72nd Street — 1, 2, 3
14th Street — 1, 2, 3
14th Street — A, C, E
Grand Central–42nd Street — 4, 5, 6
34th Street–Herald Square — N, Q, R
Essex Street — J, M, Z
14th Street — F, M
23rd Street — A, C, E
Eighth Avenue — L
125th Street — 2, 3
Second Avenue — F
Fulton Street — 2, 3
East Broadway F
34th Street–Herald Square — B, D, F, M
Delancey Street — F
Fulton Street — 4, 5
125th Street — A, B, C, D
Fulton Street — A, C
Cortlandt Street — N, R
Cathedral Parkway–110th Street — A, B, C
Central Park North–110th Street — 2, 3
116th Street — 2, 3
116th Street–Columbia University — 1
103rd Street — 1
Cathedral Parkway–110th Street — 1
103rd Street — A, B, C
Fulton Street — J, Z
116th Street — A, B, C
Lexington Avenue / 53rd Street — E, M