As a part of a new drive to eliminate London’s ‘non-spots’, Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to bring 4G coverage in the underground tunnels for the first time.
The mayor has set a 2019 deadline when Londoners will be able to use their mobiles to make phone calls or go online on the Tube trains under the capital, his office announced Thursday.
This initiative to allow commuters to have full access to mobile networks in two years will give London a cutting edge over other global cities such as New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Paris etc.
Khan unveiled his new package to the leaders of the 33 local authorities of London in a letter which mentioned ‘delivering 4G mobile connectivity to London Underground, both in station and tunnels from 2019, future-proofed ready for 5G.’
The announcement was cheered by London’s business leaders who have long complained that London has lagged far behind rival cities in the development of its digital networks.
David Leam, infrastructure director at lobby group London First, said: “We should be making the most of existing infrastructure, including the London Underground network, to boost speeds and deliver coverage to areas that have been left behind.”
This move will eventually bring an end to the city’s last virtual ‘hiding places’ for people trying to avoid being contacted on their phones.
Trial runs for the network access
It is understood that the City Hall has permitted Transport for London to work with Chinese telecom equipment manufacturing giant Huawei for the trial and the tenders for the contract to deliver mobile coverage are going out shortly.
Mobile operators will take it in turns to test their networks underground on the Waterloo & City line for a week, conducting engineering overnight and at the weekends when the line is closed.
Passengers will be able to access social media or other websites and play data intensive games alongside making calls and sending texts when the plan is in place.
The first historic subterranean calls under Central London will however be made before this scheme on the Crossrail 1 Elizabeth line, which will have full mobile coverage when its services launch in December 2018.
Khan is also expected to launch a new task-force to tackle non-spots above ground. It will identify areas in the capital where mobile signals are unavailable and liaise between councils and operators to find sites for new masts that will plug gaps in coverage.