updated 2/11/2005 9:25:08 AM ET 2005-02-11T14:25:08

Commuters will soon be able to use their mobile phones and personal digital assistants at four of Boston's busiest subway stations by this fall.

"This will be a new convenience for our customers," said Michael Mulhern, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority general manager.  "And it will be a benefit to safety and security, so we're excited about it."

The agency's board of directors has reached a 15-year contract with InSite Wireless of Alexandria, Va. to provide wireless service at the Park Street, Downtown Crossing, Government Center and State Street stations as well as the tunnels that connect them.

The stations are all within a half-mile radius and are among the busiest in the system, and the service will eventually expand to other stations.

InSite, which beat out four other companies for the contract, thinks all the major voice and data providers will sign contracts to use its system of underground antennas and fiber-optic cables to reach their subscribers.

T-Mobile already provides service to its customers on the platforms of the four stations.

T officials said installing wireless service in subways, a recommendation of the agency's anti-terrorism task force, will enhance security by allowing passengers to call for help without having to rely on police call boxes in the stations.

Daniel A. Grabauskas, the state secretary of transportation and chairman of the MBTA board, said "passengers will have increased ability to report safety issues to the appropriate personnel."

The contract also calls for the MBTA to collect about $4 million in fees, an important additional source of revenue.  The agency is facing a $16 million deficit this year, which it is addressing by cutting some services.

The MBTA faces an ever larger deficit next year caused by stagnant sales tax revenues, high fuel costs, rising health insurance premiums and an expected drop in advertising fees.

The T tried to install wireless voice and data service in underground areas three years ago, but the company hired to do the job defaulted on the contract because it could not generate deals with wireless companies.  The new effort is on a much smaller scale.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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