Mobile connectivity to be rolled out across London tube network

Written by Sam Trendall on 23 June 2021 in News
News

Passengers will have ubiquitous 4G access by 2025

Credit: TheOtherKev from Pixabay 

Travellers on the London Underground will soon be able to access mobile connectivity on all trains, stations and tunnels, mayor Sadiq Khan has announced.

The capital’s public transport authority, Transport for London, has awarded a 20-year concession contract to BAI Communications. The Canada-based firm, which has previously implemented mobile connectivity infrastructure on transport systems including the New York City Subway and the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway, will implement a “neutral host network” through which operators will be able to offer Londoners 4G and 5G services.

Some of London’s busiest underground stations – including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Bank, Euston and Camden Town – are scheduled to go live with mobile services within 18 months, according to TfL.

The intention is that all parts of the tube network will be connected by the end of 2024. This will provide mobile access to five million daily passengers.

Almost 1,250 miles of network cables will be required in total. Cabling is already installed on the Jubilee and Victoria lines, as well as on the soon-to-open Northern line extension, which will see two new stations – Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station – added to the tube network later this year. TfL said that the remainder of the necessary network infrastructure will “be fitted outside of operational hours”.


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Following an agreement with operator O2, in March 2020 a section of the Jubilee line, between Canning Town and Westminster, became the first part of the tube network to enable passengers to access mobile services in underground stations and tunnels.

In his manifesto for the this year’s election, London’s incumbent Labour mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to extend this connectivity throughout the network.

“I’m delighted to announced that I am fulfilling that commitment and full internet access will be available across the tube, with key central London stations such as Oxford Circus and Euston set to benefit before the end of next year,” he said. ““Protecting jobs and stimulating our city’s economy is a top priority for me as London rebuilds after this pandemic, and investing in London’s connectivity and digital infrastructure is central to this.”

TfL’s chief technology officer Shashi Verma added: “London Underground was born in the 19th century, and this concession to deliver mobile coverage to the whole tube network ensures it continues to adapt for customers in the 21st century. Providing mobile connectivity to customers within the tunnels and on platforms across London will help them stay connected more easily, and will both provide a long-term revenue stream for TfL and support economic growth across the city.”

Alongside BAI’s installation of the mobile network, the company will also use the subterranean infrastructure of the London Underground to roll out a fibre broadband network across the capital. 

Over the course of its 20-year partnership with London’s transport authority, the communications firm expects to invest more than £1bn in the city’s infrastructure, according to chief executive Billy D’Arcy. 

“Our long-term partnership with TfL will completely transform the passenger experience, as well as helping to boost London’s economy and providing social benefits for years to come,” he said. “By building the most advanced network of its kind in the world here, we are helping London leapfrog other major cities in terms of connectivity and ensure that the capital remains the most attractive place for investment.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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