Transport for London is to trial 4G services on the eastern half of the Jubilee line, and is looking to work with a firm that wants to run a Underground-wide network by the mid-2020s.
The pilot, starting March, will cover stations and tunnels between Westminster and Canning Town, including ticket halls. Waterloo and London Bridge stations are excluded, but TfL hopes to add them later in 2020, subject to approvals.
The idea is that the mobile providers will pay to access the network which will be run by a third party. TfL has shortlisted four companies: Axia SC Consortium, BAI Communications, Cellnex UK Ltd and Wireless Infrastructure Group. We've asked TfL for details on how the business case will work and will update if we hear back.
Shashi Verma, chief technology officer at TfL, said: "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. 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."
TfL said: "By installing cabling within tunnels and stations in advance of awarding the concession, TfL can better manage station access, reduce the amount of disruption these works may cause to customers and allow the concessionaire to then quickly utilise infrastructure once the final contract is awarded. TfL has also begun discussions with mobile network operators to ensure they can access the infrastructure for the pilot so their customers can benefit when the technology goes live."
It's an emergency
Another issue is the need for the Emergency Services Network, running on 4G, to function as well as Airwave on the Underground. TfL said that following a Home Office-requested review, it was now bringing these two projects together – although the ESN is meant to go live in 2022.
The statement added: "This review concluded that, by aligning the two projects more closely together, TfL can progress its commercial telecoms ambitions and still maintain an overall Emergency Services Network delivery schedule to be consistent with retiring the existing Airwave service."
Although the moves have raised fears of increasing noise levels from extending mobile coverage, the reality of most rickety and noisy trains is that making calls will be all but impossible. Anyway, no one makes actual voice calls on mobile phones anymore, do they? ®