London Underground to get full 4G coverage by 2024
Transport for London (TfL) has said the London Underground will receive full 4G coverage by the end of 2024.
Uninterrupted mobile coverage has already been introduced on the eastern half of the Jubilee line and will be expanded in phases to ticket halls, platforms and tunnels on the Tube network over the next three years.
Customers will be able to check the latest travel information; keep on top of their emails and the latest news; catch up on social media; watch videos, and make calls throughout their journeys.
London’s Tube tunnels will also be used to provide full fibre connectivity across the city, which can then be connected to buildings and street furniture such as lighting and bus stops. This will help to further increase mobile coverage through small mobile transmitters, particularly 5G.
The contract was awarded to BAI Communications, who was awarded the concession after a tender process. The firm has already delivered communications networks in other high-density urban environments including New York, Toronto and Hong Kong.
Signal will be provided along tunnels using cables known as ‘leaky feeders’ that comprise a standard coaxial cable that can emit and receive radio waves. The cable is ‘leaky’ in that it has gaps or slots in its outer conductor to allow the radio signal to leak into or out of the cable along its entire length. The infrastructure will also be 5G ready, allowing for a seamless upgrade for mobile operators in the future.
The London Underground network is one of the world’s largest underground networks and prior to the pandemic was used by more than five million passengers a day.
Once fully delivered, more than 2,000km of cabling are expected to be installed within tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours.
TfL said the network would also generate additional revenue for TfL across the 20-year length of the concession, as well as helping operational teams by providing better connectivity while underground.
To help reduce future disruption, TfL has already begun installing the necessary cabling within a number of stations and tunnels to help reduce the need for additional closures. This includes cabling already installed on the Jubilee and Victoria lines, as well as within the Northern Line Extension.
Work will now begin to prepare some of London’s busiest stations for mobile connectivity, including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Bank, Euston and Camden Town, ahead of them being some of the first to be connected by the end of 2022.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “I promised Londoners that if they re-elected me for a second term as Mayor, I would deliver 4G throughout the Tube network. It’s already up and running on the eastern half of the Jubilee line and I’m delighted to announced 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.”
Shashi Verma, chief technology officer at TfL, said: “London Underground was born in the 19th century and this concession to deliver mobile coverage to the whole Tube network ensures it continues to adapt for customers in the 21st century. Providing mobile connectivity to customers within the tunnels and on platforms across London will help them stay connected more easily and will both provide a long-term revenue stream for TfL and support economic growth across the city.”
As well as 4G, new trains being introduced on the Piccadilly Line will enable air conditioning in the tunnels for the first time, although this will take much longer to rollout compared to 4G due to the extensive engineering works required.
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