The London Underground will have full 4G signal on trains in 2019

28 Nov 2017

Tube station in London. Image: Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

Londoners will be able to use their smartphones deep below the city’s streets in 2019.

Last August, London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged that Londoners would be able to use their mobiles to make calls or go online on Tube trains, with a view to having the scheme up and running across the network in two years.

It looks like he has made good on his promise for better connectivity, as the Evening Standard has reported that commuters will be able to use their phones on London Underground trains from 2019.

The good news follows a successful trial on the Waterloo and City line, which runs between Waterloo and Bank underground stations.

London Underground to get connected

Tunnels and stations along the line were installed with 4G technology, allowing passengers to check emails, make calls and read the news, all during their subterranean commute.

Vodafone, O2, Three and EE all took part in the trial, which also enabled staff to practise laying new fibre cables within the structure of the underground network. Only O2 and Vodafone carried out signal testing inside the tunnels.

Transport For London (TFL) is to begin tendering for a service provider to deliver the 4G mobile coverage in 2018, meaning there will no longer be a place in London where mobile users are not contactable.

Director of commercial development at TFL, Graeme Craig, said: “The success of this trial shows that we are on track to unlock one of the UK’s most high-profile not-spots [an area with no broadband or mobile internet coverage] and deliver 4G mobile coverage throughout our tunnels and Tube stations.”

Craig told Wired“Our expectation is that the commercial partner will cover the capital and operating costs of the telecoms operation and would provide a revenue share for us.”

Paris, Tokyo and Berlin all have mobile coverage on their underground train networks. While Londoners can already access Wi-Fi at the vast majority of underground stations and platforms, the signal dips once the train moves through tunnels.

According to Wired, the Waterloo and City line was chosen because its tunnel is “particularly demanding in terms of radio coverage” as well as the fact that it only has two stops.

Tube station in London. Image: Songquan Deng/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects