Mobile phones could start to work in tube tunnels from 2019, as long running plans take a step closer to a tender being issued.
Following a trial of 4G coverage overnight in the Waterloo & City line tunnels, TfL is now reportedly planning to invite bids to expand the coverage to the rest of the network next year.
All four of the mobile networks were involved in the W&C line trials, although only Vodafone and O2 carried out the actual tests.
A tender could be issued by the summer, the Financial Times suggests, with coverage coming available in 2019. As with similar projects in other countries, it’s expected that the mobile networks would cover the construction and operational costs.
The sticking point being whether the networks also need to pay for access to the tunnels, as is the case in some cities.
“The success of this trial shows that we are on track to unlock one of the UK’s most high profile not-spots and deliver 4G mobile coverage throughout our tunnels and Tube stations,” said Graeme Craig, director of commercial development at TfL.
There is a chance that the deployment of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) would also include a commercially accessible 4G service to help reduce costs.
Some will doubtless bemoan the arrival of phone coverage on the tube, but as many trains are quite noisy, the chances of making a phone call are slim, and even above ground, most people seem to use phones to read stuff than to talk with.