Access to high-speed mobile connectivity on the Tube has taken another major step forward today, with Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 joining BAI Communications’ (BAI) network, Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London confirmed today.
Customers of all four mobile network operators – Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 – will be able to access high-speed 4G and 5G-ready mobile connectivity across the Tube, including within the tunnels.
BAI was awarded a 20-year concession by Transport for London (TfL) in June 2021 to deliver mobile connectivity on the Underground. Once complete, customers will be able to make calls wherever they are on the Underground, check the latest travel information, keep on top of their emails, catch up on social media and live stream videos, transforming the passenger experience and securing London’s transformation into a smart city.
BAI’s neutral host mobile network will also host the new Emergency Services Network (ESN), which will give first responders immediate access to life-saving data, images and information in live situations and emergencies on the frontline.
Work on delivering 4G coverage across the Tube network is well underway, following the successful transfer of the previous pilot section on the eastern end of the Jubilee line to BAI earlier this year. Positive progress now means that the next five stations to get coverage – Bank, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston, and Camden Town – will go live within the next six months. The additional connectivity within these stations will help customers visiting the city to make plans for shopping, events and socialising with friends and family in Central London across the festive season.
All stations and tunnels across the Tube network remain on course to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage. Some sections of Tube network will go live by summer 2023 – including parts of the Central line including stations and tunnels through the City and West End. TfL and BAI are also continuing to progress with delivering mobile coverage across the recently opened central section of the Elizabeth line between Paddington and Abbey Wood.
Mobile operators will also ensure continued and improved coverage via Wi-Fi on the London Underground and Elizabeth line when the network transfers to BAI in April 2023.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Improving the capital’s connectivity and digital infrastructure is central to London’s economic recovery from the pandemic, so I am delighted that Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 customers will now have access to high-speed mobile coverage when travelling on the Tube.
“I committed to Londoners that I would deliver 4G throughout the Tube network as part of my determination to build a better London for everyone – and I have no doubt that this will transform journeys for millions of passengers.”
Billy D’Arcy, CEO of BAI Communications UK, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 to our network and to reach another key milestone in our work to build a backbone of connectivity across the capital. Staying connected is more important than ever, and we are proud to be working with our partners to offer 5G-ready connectivity which will transform the way people move and work in the capital, allowing them to travel more smartly, safely and securely.”
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL, said: “Mobile connectivity across the stations and tunnels across the Tube network will help our customers stay connected more easily as well as work, shop and stay in touch on the move. I’m delighted that all four major mobile operators are set to provide high-speed, uninterrupted 4G coverage on the Tube. We are working hard with BAI Communications to get the next stations completed by the end of the year so our customers can benefit as soon as possible.”
Ahmed Essam, CEO at Vodafone UK, said: “The UK needs world class digital infrastructure, and bringing 4G and 5G to the London Underground is a big part of that. 4G on the eastern stretch of the Jubilee line is already making a huge difference to our customers, and we’re proud to continue our investment in keeping consumers and businesses connected across more parts of London.”
Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “With our 5G network already reaching two-thirds of Londoners, this investment will bring next-generation mobile connectivity deep underground for the first time ever, giving our customers a seamless service while on the move. We’ve already invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the capital to expand and upgrade our fixed and mobile networks which has accelerated London’s transformation into a cutting-edge digital hub, fuelling growth and connecting communities to gigabit services.”
Across the wider Connected London programme, BAI anticipates investing more than £1 billion on establishing a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity for London. A full-fibre network will also be delivered that will connect to buildings and street assets, like traffic lights and lampposts that house small mobile transmitter cells to leverage the power of 5G and the Internet of Things. These can then be used by boroughs, academics and developers to deliver improvements in everything from air quality and traffic congestion to public safety and city planning.
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