London Underground set to full 4G network with 5G to follow

4G, Transport

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) have today confirmed that, following a recent trial on the Jubilee Line (here), they intend to proceed with their proposed plan to deploy a 4G based mobile network across the entire London Underground by late 2024, writes ISP review. 

The technology will be future-proofed to enable later upgrades to 5G. The Tube tunnels will also be laid with fibre cables to create a “full-fibre spine for London”, as promised in Sadiq Khan’s 2021 mayoral manifesto.

It will also create a long-term income stream for TfL, which has seen its income plummet during the pandemic, leading to Government bail-outs worth almost £5 billion.

The original non-commercial trial on the Jubilee Line (eastern half of the line) saw TfL install a neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS), which was supported by hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cable that had been laid in tunnels – as well as similar surface assets to support ‘last mile’ connectivity.

All four UK mobile phone network operators – EE (BT), VodafoneO2 (VMO2) and Three UK – took part in the trial and were offering a service to their customers. The network enabled passengers to make phone calls, check for the latest travel information, catch up on social media, watch a video and read their emails or the latest news “uninterrupted” during their journeys. Ticket halls and corridors within stations are also covered by the pilot.

The pilot project itself was scheduled to last for 24 months until March 2022, but clearly it went well because TfL now intends to proceed to a full deployment. In keeping with that, TfL has just awarded a 20-year concession agreement to BAI Communications (BAI), which is a global provider of mobile infrastructure. Mobile operators will then be charged for access (wholesale).

Says Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London:

“I’m delighted to announce today that I am fulfilling that commitment and full internet access will be available across the Tube, with key central London stations such as Oxford Circus and Euston set to benefit before the end of next year.

Protecting jobs and stimulating our city’s economy is a top priority for me as London rebuilds after this pandemic, and investing in London’s connectivity and digital infrastructure is central to this.”

The first places to benefit from this will include some of the busiest stations, such as Oxford CircusTottenham Court RoadEustonCamden Town and Bank, which could be ready by the end of 2022. 

Chris Price
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