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Verizon's tunnel vision
May 31, 2001: 12:40 p.m. ET

Verizon Wireless offers service to rail passengers under NYC-area rivers
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The rail tunnels deep beneath New York City-area rivers no longer provide disconnections for cell phone users or relief for those annoyed by the phones' increasing reach.

Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications (VZ: up $0.38 to $54.38, Research, Estimates) and Vodafone Group PLC (VOD: up $0.57 to $26.05, Research, Estimates), has installed what it calls "leaky" coaxial cable, which it compares to a garden hose with holes punched in it, in the Amtrak-owned rail tunnels. The 15 miles of cables installed in the tunnels emit radio waves along their length that allow wireless service inside the tunnels.

The tunnels run 80 feet under the bottom of the Hudson and East rivers and the Hudson tunnel is more than 200 feet below hills on the New Jersey side of the river. They are used not only by passengers on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, but also by riders using New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad. About 300,000 rail passengers go through the tunnels daily.

The service has been in place since March, but Verizon didn't announce it until Thursday. It said it already is seeing 250,000 calls a month, and it expects usage to increase as commuters and Amtrak passengers learn that service is uninterrupted in the tunnels.

"People are used to ending calls or logging off before they go into the tunnels," Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Robin Nichol said. Other wireless customers also can make and receive calls depending on their services' agreement with Verizon and how their phones are programmed.

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Verizon already had installed the wires in many of the auto tunnels under the two rivers. Nichol said the company does not have any plans currently to provide service in the city's 443 miles of underground subway tunnels. graphic


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