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Transport for London Hunts Suppliers to Deliver 4G Mobile on the Tube

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 (10:42 am) - Score 1,005

Transport for London (Tfl) has announced the start of their hunt for a supplier to build a new network that can offer 4G Mobile reception on the London Underground (Tube), with the procurement process being set to begin after the 8th June General Election.

At present it’s already possible to get WiFi connectivity around many of the London Underground’s stations (Virgin Media’s network), although spreading Mobile reception across the Tube is a much more complicated task and previous attempts have only had mixed success. A Spokesperson for TfL said, “We are keen to offer full mobile phone coverage … [but it] would need to be commercially viable.”

William Newton, EMEA director at WiredScore, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“There is no question that consumers demand always-on access to connectivity – an Ericsson study revealed last year that delays in loading web pages increased stress levels, triggering a 38 percent surge in heart rate.

While a number of stations along the TfL network already offer users WiFi services, full mobile phone coverage will enable users to fully make the most of their time on the tube – whether that’s checking Facebook or replying to emails. And with such vast lengths of time on the underground begrudgingly spent by commuters across the city every day, there’s no question that this will be a very welcome improvement to TfL’s service.

This is the latest in a number of government and public sector announcements, committing to improving the digital infrastructure of the nation. The Conservative Government announced investments in both 5G and full-fibre in the Digital Strategy and Industrial Strategy, while the Labour Manifesto commits to improving mobile internet and expanding free public WiFi in city centres and on public transport. Finally, it is clear that we are approaching connectivity as a cross-party commitment.”

Some commentators have suggested that such a network could cost hundreds of millions of pounds to build and manage, although it’s currently too early to know precisely what sort of arrangement might be adopted in order to mitigate the cost (revenue sharing, subsidy etc.). Various operators from BT (EE) to Arqiva are likely to be in the frame.

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