The London Underground network may no longer be a signal black hole, with plans in place to offer 4G connectivity by 2024, and 5G sometime in the future.
Transport for London has awarded BAI Communications a 20-year deal to provide connectivity across the entire Tube network, with the first stations going online next year – among them Oxford Circus, Bank and Euston.
All network providers will be able to use the technology, which is being touted as the most advanced of its kind anywhere on earth. It will offer 4G connectivity at first, but will be future-proofed to provide a 5G network later.
The announcement marks the delivery of a manifesto pledge from London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who promised 4G connectivity across the Tube if re-elected.
This isn’t the first time mobile connectivity has been available across the London Underground. A trial was held on the Waterloo and City line during summer 2017 to test its potential, with the subsequent report finding the performance to be as expected, whilst also not impacting on how the trains and signalling systems run.
More recently, mobile connectivity has been available on the eastern half of the Jubilee line between Westminster and Canning Town.
To achieve full connectivity, BAI Communications will be required to layover 2,000km (1,242 miles) of new fibre cables across the stations and tunnels. This work will be undertaken outside of regular operating hours, to minimise disruption.
Some cabling has already been installed on parts of the Jubilee, Victoria and Northern lines.
It won’t only be people using the Tube who could benefit, though, as these new networks will also connect to buildings and street furniture above, to boost London’s overall mobile connectivity.
BAI Communications UK chief executive, Billy D’Arcy, told the Evening Standard: “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.
“Across the length of this concession, we fully anticipate investing in excess of £1 billion across the Connected London programme.”