Transport for London (TfL) is set to make 4G mobile signals available on the Underground, with the first trial to begin on a section of the Jubilee Line.
It said it will enable customers to download data onto their phones while travelling on the line, building on the free Wi-Fi service in its stations and on TfL Rail services. It will also provide supporting infrastructure for the Emergency Services Network on Underground lines.
A procurement is also underway to find a mobile operator to run the service over the long term.
TfL has installed the infrastructure for much of the Underground network with cables through its train and pedestrian tunnels and along station platforms. This provides the foundation of a leaky feeder system, in which the shielding is stripped away from sections of the cable to allow the signals to escape.
It is aiming to have all of the network cabled – covering more than 2,000km – with the capacity to provide a signal by the middle of next year, but has begun the Jubilee Line trial on a rolling basis on a stretch between Westminster and Canning Town.
This will enable TfL and the four mobile operators on its procurement shortlist – Axia SC Consortium, BAI Communications, Cellnex UK and Wireless Infrastructure Group – to learn from the trials and ensure the tender documentation reflects the scope for providing better connectivity on the network.
It added that by installing cabling in advance of awarding the concession to run the network, it can better manage station access, reduce the amount of disruption and allow the successful bidder to quickly utilise the infrastructure.
Sashi Verma, chief technology officer at TfL, said: “The London Underground network is an incredibly challenging environment in which to deliver technological improvements, but we are now well on the path to delivering mobile connectivity within our stations and tunnels.
“We have begun the complex work to allow our customers to be able to get phone reception within our tunnels from March 2020, with more stations and lines coming online during the coming years.”
Image from TfL