The phone network, O2 has joined Vodafone in committing to offering mobile phone coverage on the London Underground.
London Underground is currently installing the system to provide phone signals with its tunnels and stations, with the first phase of the launch, on the Jubilee line between Westminster and Canning Town due to go live in March 2020.
London Underground will then lease out capacity on the service to the mobile networks. Vodafone had previously confirmed that it would sign up, and now O2 has joined as well.
O2 confirmed that its coverage will also include the virtual operators who piggyback on its network, such as Giff Gaff.
Procurement for a concessionaire to provide 4G connectivity across the whole Underground network is well underway, with a look to award the contract by Summer 2020.
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL said: “It’s great that O2 have signed up to bring their 4G network to Jubilee line customers. The London Underground network is an incredibly challenging environment in which to deliver technological improvements, but we remain on course for customers to start benefiting from our pilot from March 2020.”
When it goes live, smartphones will be able to connect to Wi-Fi services in the platforms, and switch to cellular coverage when passing through the tunnels. The mobile coverage will also be available in the stations, as a back-up for the Wi-Fi, or for people who don’t have access to the Wi-Fi through their phone account.
The service will support all three main phone technologies, GSM, 3G and 4G, with 5G to be added later. TfL’s latest performance report did warn though that the March 2020 start for the service is a “very aggressive schedule”, and there is a risk of delaying the launch.
Once fully delivered, more than 2,000 kilometres of cabling are expected to have been installed within tunnels and stations, all of which will need to be fitted outside of operational hours.
Of the other two networks, EE and Three, TfL is known to have signed a contract with one of them — to be announced soon — and is still in talks with the other.