Mobile phone coverage in London Underground tunnels, currently on the Jubilee line between Westminster and Canning Town, is being expanded to part of the Central and Northern lines this week.

The Central line between Holland Park and Queensway has had mobile phone coverage switched on today, as part of a long-running rollout of phone coverage in the deep tunnels.

All four mobile network operators – Three UK, EE, Vodafone, and Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) – are taking part in the rollout, with customers on EE and Vodafone able to access coverage from today and customers on Three UK and VMO2 gaining access in the new year. The implications for the virtual operators (MVNOs) that piggyback on the four big networks will be for them to decide separately.

Coverage will be in ticket halls and platforms, as well as in tunnels between those stations.

Telecoms engineers installing equipment (c) TfL

The phone coverage will work in tandem with the station’s existing Wi-Fi service, although Vodafone controversially switched off Wi-Fi coverage on the tube early last year, leaving its customers without any service in tube stations. The Wi-Fi network, which was originally installed by Virgin Media will be transferred to BAI to operate on behalf of TfL from next April.

In about a week’s time, the Northern line will also enable phone coverage in the tunnels between Kentish Town and Archway.

UPDATE – 22nd Dec: The Northern line stations at Archway, Tufnell Park and Kentish Town have switched on their 4G coverage.

In addition, final testing is underway at some of central London’s busiest tube stations, including Camden Town, Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road, to enable them to start offering mobile coverage in the new year.

Once fully delivered, more than 2,000 kilometres of cabling as well as thousands of radios are expected to be installed within tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours. Around 500 people are working overnight across the Tube network to install mobile equipment, with the work needed to be tidied away before the network opens for customers every morning.

The aim is to deliver full coverage on the Underground and Elizabeth line by the end of 2024.

Leaky feeder cable installation (c) TfL

Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL, said: “It’s great that we have begun to introduce 4G mobile coverage to more stations, meaning that around ten per cent of our stations that are underground will shortly be connected. Progress on delivery is accelerating and together with BAI Communications and the mobile network operators we will connect many of London’s busiest stations during 2023 – transforming experience for millions of our customers and helping them stay connected while shopping, visiting events and socialising with friends and family.”

The delivery of mobile phone coverage on the London Underground was signed via a concession agreement so that the cost of installing it will be funded by BAI at no cost to TfL, while TfL will also earn revenue from the contract over its 20-year lifespan.

BAI’s network will also host the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network (ESN), which will replace the existing Airwave system currently used by London’s emergency response teams.

Across the wider Connected London programme, BAI anticipates investing more than £1 billion in establishing a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity for London. A full-fibre network will also be delivered that will connect to buildings and street assets, like traffic lights and lampposts that house small mobile transmitter cells to improve 4G and 5G phone coverage.

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11 comments
  1. Brian Butterwortn says:

    That explains the “signal but no network” I saw on my phone the other day!

    Given you can also use the Wifi to the internet on HS1 in the tunnels out of St Pancas, there much be a leakey feeder in that tunnel too.

  2. David Harrison says:

    How will TfL earn revenue?
    Will we be charged roaming fees?

    • Evan says:

      ” The delivery of mobile phone coverage on the London Underground was signed via a concession agreement so that the cost of installing it will be funded by BAI at no cost to TfL, while TfL will also earn revenue from the contract over its 20-year lifespan.”

      The network providers pay TFL to be able to access/offer for their users the underground 4g network

    • Johnny says:

      Why would people be charged roaming fees?

  3. Ben says:

    Mobile networks will pay for their customers to have access because if they don’t, their customers will move to competitor networks that do provide access. I would bet they make a handsome profit from London residents and workers commuting in every day. Any network not joining would be mad.

  4. Ucal Greaves says:

    Thanks, that’s great news.

  5. Ryan says:

    Will there be a world where you have 4g+ while actually travelling on the tube? Not just at the stations themselves.

    • Alistair twin says:

      “The aim is to deliver full coverage on the Underground and Elizabeth line by the end of 2024.”

      When they doe the stations they also do the bits in between.

      “Coverage will be in ticket halls and platforms, as well as in tunnels between those stations.”

    • Alejandro says:

      In Madrid underground is there for ages already….

  6. Bertie says:

    So we can expect to be assailed by more noise – “ I’m on a tube train….”

    Wonderful.

    • J says:

      Use earplugs, luddite. I doubt the noise of people using their phones will be anywhere near as bad as noise of the train tracks screeching.

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