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TfL Plans Tube 4G Mobile Coverage From 2019

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Transport for London hold successful trial of tube 4G mobile coverage on the Waterloo & City line

Transport for London (TfL) is pressing ahead with plans to deliver 4G mobile coverage on the tube by 2019 following a successful trial on the Waterloo & City line earlier this year. 

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.  

Earlier this year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote 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.  

Read More: Silicon readers say it’s about time for tube 4G coverage

Tube London Underground

Tube mobile coverage 

The pilot on the tube’s shortest line allowed TfL and all four major mobile operators to see how a network should be built in the capital’s subterranean railway network and how it might be used. 

TfL said it was able to make a call between Bank and Waterloo without disruption and to practice laying fibre cables alongside the track. 

It now plans to find a service provider early next year with a view to connecting the first stations in 2019. 

“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,” said Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development at TfL. “This is great news for our customers and will also help us generate vital commercial income to reinvest in modernising and improving transport in 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. 

However with the new Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) set to support 4G when it opens next year, plans have been accelerated.  

“This is a brilliant initiative and part of our work to improve connectivity at home, in our high streets, public spaces and across the transport network,” added Theo Blackwell, London Chief Digital Officer. “TfL’s innovation shows we can make a real difference and benefit Londoners through using city-wide public assets in a smarter way, starting with the Tube.” 

Quiz: What do you know about 4G?