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.

Leaky feeder cable installation (c) TfL

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.

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3 comments on “O2 to offer phone calls in London Underground tunnels
  1. JP says:

    There’s only ever two of us in a carriage not melded to our phone, not part of the plastic ear muff diverse community, so I must be odd. Or perhaps it’s cos it’s cold.
    Cela m’est egal, natch, but I do wonder about the peace afforded by my (in)action being unknown to you normal lot!
    Once we have the inevitable progress to yak yak on the underground track,or should I say rabbit ~ what happened to them ~ which of course will be great for all if and when needed, for business, for ahem data gathering I’ll have to get some noise cancelling or chewing gum system going if I want to be lost in my thoughts ever again.
    Sobeit, but this lovely world’s getting noisier as well as you know what else too.
    Maybe everyone will be lost in gaming and it’ll still be quiet. One can but dream. Well if you’re not on your device that is.
    Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it a day early. JP

  2. Ola says:

    Why am i not excited about this idea? The sanctity of being able to travel 45 mins without hearing someone yak about their night out . How does this work for convenience in a very congested rush hour standing uncomfortably close to people. Lastly with all the ‘incidents’ we’ve had in London since, I think these greedy companies should think things through a bit. Does this enhance or compromise safety and security?

    • ianvisits says:

      Just out of curiosity, do you object to people taking on the train in general, or only when you can’t hear the other person’s replies?

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