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Transport for London Hopes to Extend Mobile Networks Underground

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 (2:40 pm) - Score 799

Reports indicated that Transport for London are in the early stages of talks that could result in the extension of consumer mobile broadband and phone services to cover the city’s vast network of underground tubes and stations, all 100 miles of it.

The prospect represents a huge technical and cost challenge, which is likely to be supported by some of the underground’s existing WiFi networks and a slew of new infrastructure. According to The Telegraph, several operators are believed to be involved in the talks, including small cell developer Airvana (Commscope).

Nobody would be surprised if EE (BT) were also involved, not least because they’ve already picked up the Government’s Emergency Services Network contract (here) and as part of that they’ve promised to increase their 4G landmass coverage from 60% of the UK to 95% by 2020 (99.8% population coverage).

London will be the last region to switch over to EE’s new system and that’s partly because of how difficult it is to upgrade the Tube network.

An Industry Source told the Newspaper:

“[The new network] could be controlled by TfL, by one of the operators, or by some independent infrastructure provider. It could be piggybacked on some of the Wi-Fi infrastructure that is already down there.”

So far TFL has only confirmed that they’re exploring solutions in order to cater for the new Emergency Services Network, although the suggestion is that commercial mobile operators might then be brought in to connect the Tube to support consumer services too.

But for now a TFL spokesperson could only say this: “We do not currently have plans to introduce mobile phone coverage for customers. The introduction of such coverage would need to be commercially viable and would be subject to consultation.”

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    I can just hear it now. 250 people in a carriage all saying exactly the same thing.

    “Hello. It’s (whoever). Yes. Stuck in the tunnel. Just outside Mile End. Central Line is (expletive) again. Could be here for hours. Can you tell (whoever) that I’ll be late. No, I don’t know when I’ll get in. Hello? Hello? (expletive) mobile phones”

    1. Avatar sentup.custard says:

      A few years ago I’d have had a chuckle and agreed with you, but my experience nowadays is that very few people use their phones for real speech, it’s all TXTMSG. A great shame, as I used to enjoy watching frustrated “connected 24/7” travellers getting annoyed with their phones when the signal dropped – now they just send another text if they think the first one failed.

  2. Avatar wireless pacman says:

    Love it! 🙂

    Mind you, it is hardly the biggest technical challenge known to mobile operators. Ok, to non-UK ones then!

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