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The project by BAI Communications to provide high-speed mobile connectivity on the London Underground transport systems has taken a major step forward, with Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 announcing that they are deploying their networks on the Tube.
Run by Transport for London (TfL), the London Underground is one of the world’s largest underground networks, and before the pandemic, was used by more than five million passengers a day. Once fully delivered, more than 2,000km of cabling will be installed in tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours.
In June 2021, BAI was awarded a 20-year concession by TfL to deliver mobile connectivity. Once complete, customers will be able to make calls wherever they are on the Underground, check the latest travel information, keep on top of their emails, catch up on social media and livestream videos, transforming the passenger experience and securing London’s transformation into a smart city.
The high-speed mobile coverage will be delivered across the London Underground alongside a new full-fibre network, 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, creating new opportunities to serve homes and businesses with gigabit-capable speeds and supporting digital inclusion.
Work on delivering 4G coverage across the Tube network is well underway, following the successful transfer of the previous pilot section on the eastern end of the Jubilee line to BAI earlier this year. Progress now means that the next five stations to get coverage – Bank, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston and Camden Town – will go live in the next six months. The additional connectivity in these stations will help customers visiting the city to make plans for shopping, events and socialising with friends and family in Central London during the festive season.
All stations and tunnels across the Tube network remain on course to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage. Some sections of Tube network will go live by summer 2023 – including parts of the Central Line such as stations and tunnels through the city and West End.
TfL and BAI are also continuing to progress with delivering mobile coverage across the recently opened central section of the Elizabeth Line between Paddington and Abbey Wood. Mobile operators will also ensure continued and improved coverage via Wi-Fi on the London Underground and Elizabeth Line when the network transfers to BAI in April 2023.
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Customers of all four mobile network operators – Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 – will now be able to access high-speed 4G and 5G-ready mobile connectivity across the Tube, including in the tunnels. BAI’s neutral host mobile network will also host the new Emergency Services Network, which will give first responders immediate access to life-saving data, images and information in live situations and emergencies on the frontline.
Commenting on the announcement, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Improving the capital’s connectivity and digital infrastructure is central to London’s economic recovery from the pandemic, so I am delighted that Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 customers will now have access to high-speed mobile coverage when travelling on the Tube.
“I committed to Londoners that I would deliver 4G throughout the Tube network as part of my determination to build a better London for everyone – and I have no doubt that this will transform journeys for millions of passengers.”
BAI Communications UK CEO Billy D’Arcy said: “We’re delighted to welcome Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 to our network and to reach another key milestone in our work to build a backbone of connectivity across the capital. Staying connected is more important than ever, and we are proud to be working with our partners to offer 5G-ready connectivity which will transform the way people move and work in the capital, allowing them to travel more smartly, safely and securely.”