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TfL Rejects Virgin Media Claims That Crossrail Won’t Have Wi-Fi & 4G

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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Virgin Media CEO says Crossrail won’t have in-tunnel Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity. TfL says Elizabeth Line will.

Transport for London (TfL) has denied claims made by Virgin Media that Crossrail will not have in-tunnel Wi-Fi.

In response to a speech made by Minister for the Digital Economy Matthew Hancock at the Broadband World Forum (BBWF) in London, Tom Mockeridge called the London Underground the capital’s biggest mobile hotspot.

Wi-Fi has been available on more than a hundred tube stations and platforms since 2012, but connectivity in tunnels has been absent – despite the fact other cities enjoy 4G signal in their subterranean railways networks.

Tube mobile coverage

Crossrail

Mockridge argued that if Mayor of London Sadiq Khan truly wanted to turn London into the world’s leading tech hub and if the UK government was serious about extending Wi-Fi coverage to the UK railway system, it would start with the tube – and Crossrail in particular.

“In London Virgin Media supplies the Wi-Fi on the Underground stations, but we haven’t been able to get into the tunnels,” Mockridge said. “That’s a Victorian build and you can accept that maybe there is a level of difficulty.

“But here we are building world class public transport infrastructure and Transport for London says, we’re too busy to think about Wi-Fi. This is an example of un-stitched up thinking from the Government.

“We had Matt Hancock here yesterday actually saying: ‘Our goal is continuous high quality connectivity on trains in the UK.’ And this is what Transport for London is doing.

“More than a decade and £15 billion in the making and still no plans for Wi-Fi on the busiest part of the Crossrail route.

“Luckily for Londoners the Victorians were more pioneering or today’s tube would still be powered by steam and lit with gas lamps. Crossrail should be the crown jewel in London’s connectivity, in every sense. TfL needs to act now.”

TfL response

tfl-crossrail-2However there are in fact plans for Wi-Fi and 4G on the new Bombadier trains, set to come into service in 2017 ahead of the full launch of the Elizabeth Line, as Crossrail will be known as, in December 2018.

The London Underground Wi-Fi network, which is actually operated by Virgin Media, will be extended to Crossrail platforms at stations served by both the Tube and the Elizabeth Line.

“Virgin Media’s claims of a lack of Wi-Fi on the Elizabeth line are incorrect,” a TfL spokesperson told TechWeekEurope. “Customers will be able to use Wi-Fi in all our stations and on trains.”

Indeed, the intention is to make Wi-Fi and 4G available within the central tunnel.

TfL has told TechWeekEurope in the past that it supports the idea of a mobile rollout “in principle” but that a funding model had never been agreed. According to Greater London Authority (GLA) documents, a “number of technologies are being investigated” for tunnel connectivity and above-ground coverage.

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