Saty Bhat - stock.adobe.com
Almost six months to the day after Transport for London (TfL) awarded a 20-year concession to BAI Communications to enable mobile coverage on the whole Tube network, mobile operators Three and EE are to provide 4G and 5G-ready mobile connectivity across London Underground.
The Tube is one of the world’s largest underground networks and providing uninterrupted mobile connectivity will enable customers to check the latest travel information, keep on top of their emails, catch up on social media, live-stream videos or make calls wherever they are on the Underground. The deal between the two networks and BAI is designed to help lead London’s transformation into a truly smart city and give Three and EE customers on the networks access to uninterrupted coverage while on the Tube and within stations.
BAI anticipates investing more than £1bn across the Connected London programme and all stations and tunnels across the Tube network are due to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage by the end of 2024. The high-speed mobile coverage will be delivered across London Underground alongside a new full-fibre network running alongside Tube tunnels which will also be used to provide full-fibre connectivity across the city, connecting to buildings and street assets such as street lighting and bus stops.
The latter house small mobile transmitter cells support 5G and the internet of things. These potentially can then be used by boroughs, academics and developers to deliver improvements in anything from air quality and traffic congestion to public safety and city planning.
Also, all UK mobile operators will be able to access the London Underground Wi-Fi, as well as BAI’s neutral host mobile network, which can also be made available to the Emergency Services Network (ESN). The infrastructure will also be 5G-ready, allowing future upgrades.
Since BAI was awarded the concession in June 2021, work at some of London’s busiest stations – including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Bank, Euston and Camden Town – is already under way to prepare them to be connected by the end of 2022. Progress also continues to ensure that customers on the forthcoming Elizabeth line can enjoy mobile connectivity as soon as possible after it has opened in the first half of 2022.
Work is now under way to allow 4G connectivity to start being introduced for customers on both trains and platforms during 2022. From launch, customers will be able to benefit from Wi-Fi connectivity within stations along the line in the same way that they currently experience within Tube stations. Wi-Fi access within the tunnels will be introduced later in 2022.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I’m delighted to see Three and EE sign up as the first operators to provide full high-speed 4G access across the Tube network. This will make a huge difference to passengers, allowing them to make calls, read emails and check travel information while on the move. Investing in London’s connectivity and digital infrastructure is one important way we are helping to stimulate our city’s economy. It also represents a significant step towards ensuring the whole Tube network has 5G-ready mobile coverage.”
BAI Communications UK CEO Billy D’Arcy added: “We are pleased to welcome Three and EE as our launch partners and the first operators who will be transforming customer experience on the London Underground by enabling them to access seamless, 5G-ready connectivity. This is an important next step on the project’s journey which will allow passengers to move around the capital more smartly, safely, and securely.
“More broadly, the new backbone of connectivity will create a platform for innovation and allow London’s residents and businesses to harness smart city technology, helping to improve urban life and boost the economy.”
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