The eastern half of the Jubilee line now has mobile phone coverage in the tunnels and stations, after the first phase of a network rollout was switched on. The service is a pilot trial, offering phone coverage between Westminster and Canning Town tube stations.
All customers with EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, including those on virtual operators (MVNOs) who use their services, such as giffgaff and Virgin Mobile will be able to connect to the signal from today. The service supports all three main phone technologies, GSM, 3G and 4G, with 5G to be added later.
The bit some will hate is that it will support voice calls as well as mobile data services, although realistically saying “I’m on the train” isn’t going to be easy in a noisy tube train as it roars through the tunnels. It’s expected that most people will use the service to maintain their smartphone data as they travel between the stations existing Wi-Fi hotspots.
Ticket halls and corridors within stations are also covered by the pilot, except for London Bridge and Waterloo stations where the signal will just be available on the Jubilee line platforms.
Following the first pilot section going live, TfL will begin work to expand 4G access to cover platforms and tunnels across the entire Jubilee line by the end of the year. TfL then expects to be able to award a contract to deliver mobile coverage across the whole Underground network in the summer, so that other lines can begin to get mobile connectivity from 2021.
The £10 million project was developed by TfL with Capita, who worked with Nokia and Installation Technology, and TfL expects to recoup all that, and more, from the operating concession it will award when the service is expanded to the rest of the Underground. The pilot is using some of the cabling installed with Home Office funding to support the Emergency Services Network, which will eventually be purchased by the concessionaire.
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL, said: “We are delighted to have delivered this pilot of 4G mobile signal on the eastern end of the Jubilee line. This has been very complex work to install the necessary equipment to allow our customers to be able to get phone reception within our tunnels while keeping the stations open and operational.”
Across the wider network, more than 390km of the first ‘Leaky Feeder’ antennae cabling and 60km of the second ‘Leaky Feeder’ antennae cabling (out of 420km of tunnels) has been put in place (subject to final fixing). TfL is currently working in 53 stations, out of a total 127 stations which require works, to put the required cabling.