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NYC's Free Subway Wi-Fi Faster Than Home Broadband

New York City's ancient subway system is getting a much-needed high-tech upgrade with the roll out of 4G LTE and free Wi-Fi connectivity at 30 subway platforms, including Times Square, Union Square and Columbus Circle. Providers include each of the Big Four U.S. carriers and Boingo Wireless.

So far, AT&T is the only provider offering 4G LTE connectivity underground, with T-Mobile providing 3G service, though that's expected to change this summer when T-Mobile rolls out its 4G LTE network in New York City. Sprint and Verizon Wireless have yet to bring their respective systems online, but both have announced that they will be up and running in the coming months.

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When we tested Boingo's Wi-Fi service at the Times Square 42nd Street station, we saw average download speeds of 21.9 Mbps and average upload speeds of 33.3 Mbps. That's better than some home broadband speeds. AT&T's 4G LTE network offered equally impressive speeds, with downloads topping out at an average of 20.4 Mbps and uploads averaging 8.9 Mbps. All of those speeds were recorded two levels below the busy streets of Manhattan.

Boingo says users will be able to connect to the service for free, with costs being covered by advertisers such as HTC. That means you'll have to sit through a short advertisement before you can start browsing the Web. But hey, free is free. 

The multi-year subway wireless project is expected to reach 76 stops by the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. And while that may seem like a lot, it's not even close to blanketing the subway system's 468 stations, not to mention its 660 miles of publicly traveled tracks.