Starting today, subway riders will be able to make calls on their cellphone at some downtown Toronto underground stations but the service will be exclusive to Wind Mobile customers for a full year.

Mayor John Tory and TTC officials held a press conference at St. George Station on Wednesday morning to announce a deal between Wind Mobile and BAI Canada – the company that equipped all downtown Toronto subway stations with Wi-Fi.

Today the service is only available at four subway stations but the service will be rolled out to all 15 downtown subway stations currently equipped with wireless internet by the start of the Pan American Games on July 10.

During the press conference, both Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle told reporters that they are hopeful that other providers will now step up and reach their own deals with BAI Canada to provide cellular service at Toronto subway stations, however TTC spokesperson Brad Ross subsequently confirmed to CP24 that Wind Mobile has exclusive rights for now.

“Wind mobility has exclusive rights until June 2016,” he said. “After that point, other carriers can negotiate with the TTC to have their phones operational on the BAI system.”

BAI Canada won a contract in 2012 to install and operate a wireless internet and cellular service network throughout the Toronto subway system.

Under the terms of the contract, the company is paying the TTC $25 million over the next 20 years for exclusive ownership of the infrastructure and the accompanying ability to provide access to wireless carriers at a cost.

On Wednesday, BAI Canada initially provided a statement to CP24 indicating that “it is reasonable to believe that WIND Mobile will have a period of time of sole exclusivity” when it comes to cellular service in subway stations, however when asked directly whether an exclusive deal was in place a spokesperson for the company refused to comment.

“We can’t comment on any roaming or contractual agreements. Today, we are pleased to announce that WIND Mobile is the TTC’s first cellular carrier, bringing cellular connectivity to WIND customers on Toronto’s subway system,” the statement from the company said.

Speaking with on Wednesday afternoon, Colle said that he was under the impression that providers could sign up with BAI Canada at any point and that he would have “serious questions” to raise if that was not the case.

During the press conference, Tory also spoke of the need to have other carriers sign up to provide the service, making no mention of the exclusive deal with Wind Mobile.

“Competition will cause the other companies to be here. There is not much in it for them in terms of revenue, but when somebody else takes the first step as Wind has today they will be here because it is a matter of customer service,” Tory said. “They can’t afford to have their customers thinking that I am somehow getting second-rate service.”

So far, 14 subway stations on the downtown loop on the Yonge-University-Spadina line (from Spadina Station to Yonger-Bloor Station) have been outfitted with wireless internet, along with Bay Station on the Bloor-Danforth line. The remaining subway stations in the city’s network are expected to be outfitted with the infrastructure by the end of 2017.

There are also plans to outfit the tunnels themselves with the service once all stations are brought online.

Cellular service is available to Wind Mobile customers at St. George, Spadina, Bloor-Yonge and Bay Stations as of today.

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