Mobile phone coverage is to be extended to the entire London Underground following successful trials along the Jubilee line extension.
At the moment, there is WiFi coverage in the stations, available to all mobile networks except Vodafone, but cellular coverage is limited to surface areas and a few shallow underground stations that accidentally get it due to their design.
To improve phone coverage in the Underground, a trial of adding mobile phone coverage in tunnels and stations started last year between Westminster and North Greenwich on the Jubilee line, and now TfL has signed a 20-year contract with BAI Communications to extend that to the rest of the London Underground.
Work will be delivered in phases over the next three years, and work is now underway across the Tube network, with first stations – including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, Bank and Camden Town – going live by the end of next year.
TfL has already begun installing the necessary cabling within a number of stations and tunnels to help reduce the need for additional closures and ensure mobile connectivity can be introduced more easily. This includes cabling already installed on the Jubilee and Victoria lines, as well as within the Northern Line Extension.
The existing Jubilee line section will also be adopted by BAI, which will work to upgrade any assets to its proposed network-wide design.
Once fully delivered, more than 2,000 kilometres of cabling are expected to be installed within tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours.
All stations and tunnels are due to have mobile coverage by the end of 2024.
The 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.
The phone coverage expansion is being delivered alongside a new full-fibre network that will run through tunnels, providing a broadband internet connection that will be resold to businesses and other internet providers to increase their own network capacity. That will be supported by a plan announced in 2019 to build the necessary links from the tunnels to the streets to allow the broadband service to connect to the businesses.
Some of the worst of the internet “not-spots” happen to run close to existing tube lines, such as a large cluster of poor internet speeds along the Jubilee line between Bermondsey and West Ham, as well as along the Metropolitan and Bakerloo lines around Wembley.
In addition to being a customer benefit, the mobile and broadband services will provide an additional income for TfL over the 20-year life of the contract.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “I promised Londoners that if they re-elected me for a second term as Mayor I would deliver 4G throughout the Tube network. It’s already up and running on the eastern half of the Jubilee line and I’m delighted to announced today that I am fulfilling that commitment and full internet access will be available across the Tube, with key central London stations such as Oxford Circus and Euston set to benefit before the end of next year.”