Mayor wants tube 4G coverage by 2019, a team of notspot specialists and for local authorities to do more to improve connectivity
The London Underground is set to have in-tunnel mobile coverage from 2019 as part of a package of measures designed to improve connectivity in the capital.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written to all London Boroughs, explaining his belief that poor mobile and broadband coverage in some parts of the city is unacceptable given its importance to business and everyday life.
London’s 4G coverage ranks below other UK cities while some areas like Rotherhithe and the City of London are notorious notspots.
A team of ‘notspot’ troubleshooters will liaise between local authorities and communications providers, while a City Summit will advise boroughs on how to bid for central government funding. Additionally, a Connectivity Delivery Group will work on coordinating projects across all boroughs.
But it is the plan for Tube 4G coverage that will attract the headlines. Although Wi-Fi has been available in stations and on platforms since 2012, the Underground has been deprived of the cellular coverage present on other subways and metros around the world.
Transport for London (TfL) has told Silicon in the past it agreed to the idea in principle but a funding model had never been agreed. Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson had declared that mobile coverage would arrive on the tube by 2012 – a deadline which was obviously missed – and his predecessor Ken Livingstone asked the industry for pitches back in 2005.
Do you want 4G on the London Underground?
- Yes (74%)
- No (26%)
But the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) will have in-tunnel 4G coverage when it opens next year. It is unclear how the rollout on other lines will be funded, but TfL is to explore how its street furniture such as bus stops can be used for infrastructure like small cells and to generate a commercial return.
“London is now a leading global tech hub, with thriving start-ups alongside major companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google,” said Khan. “But our digital connectivity needs to be improved – internet connectivity is now a key public utility, and it is no surprise that some businesses see poor connectivity as a barrier to growth.
“If we are to remain competitive in the global economy, we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access a fast and reliable digital connection.
“That means working to boost connectivity across London – tackling not-spots, delivering ity in the London Underground and working with local authorities to provide digital infrastructure fitting of a global tech hub.”