4G Mobile Coverage To Arrive On The Tube In 2020

Transport for London (TfL) has revealed that 4G access will be available across the entire London Underground network by mid 2020.

It announced that customers using the Jubilee line in East London, including when the train is in the tunnel and not just in the station, will be able to keep receiving emails, surf the web, or make calls from March 2020.

TfL had said back in 2017 that it intended to deliver 4G mobile coverage on the entire tube network by 2019, following a successful trial on the Waterloo & City line earlier that year. This announcement confirms that this will happen a year later than first planned.

4G On Tube

TfL said that it has already installed ‘hundreds of miles of cabling’ and it is currently talking with mobile network operators to ensure their customers can benefit when the first section goes live.

It will shortly begin procurement for concessionaire to make 4G services available across the rest of the network, with the whole of the Tube to have 4G coverage by mid 2020.

It all begins when the eastern half of the Jubilee line will get full mobile connectivity within station platforms and tunnels for the first time from March 2020. TfL said the network will initially cover the platforms and tunnels between Westminster and Canning Town.

Poll: See if Silicon readers actually wanted 4G connectivity on the Tube.

TfL said that it already offers more than 260 WiFi-enabled London Underground stations and on TfL Rail services.

“I’m delighted that we will be introducing mobile connectivity to the London Underground from next March,” said Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. “This is a really important step for the millions of people who use the Tube each year.”

“Introducing 4G and, in the future, 5G will help Londoners and visitors keep in touch and get the latest travel information while on the go,” said Khan. “London is the best place to live, visit and work – and projects like this will help make it even better.”

“The London Underground network is an incredibly challenging environment in which to deliver technological improvements, but we are now well on the path to delivering mobile connectivity within our stations and tunnels,” said Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL.

“We have begun the complex work to allow our customers to be able to get phone reception within our tunnels from March 2020, with more stations and lines coming online during the coming years,” Verma said.

Industry viewpoint

Industry experts have pointed out that London Underground connectivity has lagged behind rival transportation services in other countries.

“TfL’s plan to bring 4G mobile coverage to the London Underground may be the key to reclaiming the UK’s rail reputation; the olive branch of uninterrupted calls, WhatsApp messages, social media and emails, proffered to the connectivity-hungry commuter,” said Ingo Flomer, VP Business Development & Technology at Cobham Wireless, which already has connectivity solutions installed on parts of the London Underground.

“London was the first to open an underground rail network in 1863, but it will be one of the last major routes to support cellular coverage,” Flomer pointed out. “New York’s subway, Berlin’s U-Bahn and metros in Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, and more all allow passengers to use their connected devices both on board trains and at stations.”

“The challenging environment of the London Underground does not make it easy to deploy connectivity when compared to more modern metro systems, but the technology does exist to achieve reliable connectivity now,” Flomer added. “A fully established 4G network will also provide the network foundations that can be built on for 5G connectivity in the future, providing longer term benefits to Londoners.”

Quiz: What do you know about 4G?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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