Just over a year ago, we kicked off our 20-year concession with Transport for London (TfL) to deliver high-speed mobile coverage on the London Underground, creating a backbone of connectivity across the UK’s capital.
Twelve months on and it is incredible to see the progress that has been made. Not least, all four mobile network operators – Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 - recently coming on board to give their customers access to 4G and 5G-ready connectivity within the Tube’s tunnels and stations. In just a few years, our experience of travelling across London will be transformed. We’ll all be able to make calls wherever we are on the Underground, check the latest travel information, keep on top of emails, catch up on social media and even live stream videos.
In April, the previous pilot on the Jubilee line was successfully transferred across to BAI, marking one of our first major project milestones and allowing passengers to enjoy coverage between Westminster and Canning Town.
The next five stations to get coverage – Bank, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, and Camden Town – are some of the busiest in the capital and will benefit passengers when they head to Central London to work, to shop, to explore or to catch up with friends and family. All stations and tunnels across the network – including the recently opened Elizabeth line – remain on course to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage by the end of 2024.
Once complete, the network will span the entirety of central London, with coverage provided in the ticket halls and platforms of 137 below ground stations via 5,500 low power radio units.
This scale of this project means it does not only have the potential to transform passenger experience on the Underground, it is also a critical piece of the puzzle in London’s journey to becoming a smart city.
Over the next two decades, we plan to invest more than £1 billion in the capital’s digital connectivity, and this includes a full-fibre network that will connect to buildings and the capital’s 100,000 plus street assets, creating new opportunities to serve homes and businesses with gigabit-capable speeds and supporting digital inclusion.
Things we walk past every day – from traffic lights to lampposts – will house small mobile transmitter cells that will enable us to leverage 5G and the Internet of Things, unlocking new opportunities for technological innovation. From air quality and traffic congestion to public safety and city planning, we can expect improvements across the board, as well as new products and digital developments that can be used by boroughs, academics, developers and businesses.
According to the Mayor of London, only around 11% of the capital’s buildings can access full fibre connectivity currently. Enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to have affordable gigabit-capable connections could see productivity increases of between 7% and 10%.
This advanced network will help London to leapfrog other major cities in terms of connectivity and ensure we remain one of the most attractive places for investment. With plans to further boost innovation in the works, you can expect more from us in the coming months as we continue to connect the capital.