Passengers on London Underground Trains will finally get 4G coverage across the entire network from 2019. However, the announcement from Transport for London did not make it clear whether the move will include provisions for putting WiFi into the Tube. TfL passengers can already access WiFi for free at stations.
London currently lags behind other major cities such as New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin and Tokyo, which all boast wirelessly connected Metro services beneath their streets.
This week TfL announced “significant progress” had been made in delivering a 4G mobile network on the Underground Network, following a technology trial, which took place over the summer.
The pilot scheme involved installing fibre and 4G technology in the tunnels running between Bank and Waterloo Underground stations, on the Waterloo and City Line.
The four major UK mobile network operators Vodafone, O2, Three and EE all took part in the trial. According to TfL the trial also gave engineers the opportunity to practise laying new fibre cables within stations and tunnels.
According to Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development at TfL, “The success of this trial shows that we are on track to unlock one of the UK’s most high profile not-spots and deliver 4G mobile coverage throughout our tunnels and Tube stations.”
Commenting on the trial conducted this year, TfL said: “The trial took place during engineering hours and was a success, culminating in a test journey being made by one of our contractors from one end of the line to the other with uninterrupted data coverage. The trial will help to inform our next steps towards a wider public cellular network to allow our customers to check their e-mails and to read the latest news and social media updates as well as checking for live travel information while underground on the Tube.”
TfL is yet to reveal how it will pay for the 4G installations, but said it plans to have a commercial partner on board in summer 2018. The London Daily Mail quoted a TfL spokesman as saying “Our expectation is that a commercial partner will cover the capital and operating costs of the telecoms operation and would provide a revenue share for us. However, this is still subject to discussion with our Finance Committee and the TfL Board.”
Plans for the data network were first announced in August 2017 after London Mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled several proposals in a letter to London's 33 local authorities.
He wrote that he would be 'delivering 4G mobile connectivity to London Underground, both in station and tunnels from 2019, future-proofed ready for 5G'.
TfL said it's on the lookout for a provider to set up a full 4G network across the Underground in 2018. The authority is set to begin tendering for a service provider to deliver the 4G mobile coverage in the New Year.