The last of the UK’s four major mobile companies, Vodafone and O2, have signed a deal with neutral host company BAI Communications, to allow them to offer 4G and 5G connectivity to their customers across the tunnels and stations of the London Tube.
Previously, rival operators BT (EE) and Three UK were the only ones to reach an agreement with BAI. The pair successfully negotiated contracts with the infrastructure provider and signed them back in December 2021.
In June last year, the Australian-based BAI won the 20-year concession to install fibre links and wireless connections across the whole London Underground network, helping to remove one of the most high-profile mobile ‘not-spots’ in the UK.
The contract calls for a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity to be established across London. According to TfL, work on preparing some of the capital's busiest stations - including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, and Bank – is well underway and these stations will be among the first to be fully connected stations by the end of this year.
Uninterrupted 4G mobile coverage was introduced on the eastern half of the Jubilee line in March 2020. This is now being expanded in phases to cover ticket halls, platforms and tunnels on the Tube network over the next two years, with all stations and tunnels due to have mobile coverage by the end of 2024.
The tunnels of the London Underground will also be used to provide full fibre connectivity across the city, which can then be connected to buildings and street assets such as lamp-posts and bus stops. According to BAI, this will help to further increase mobile coverage through small mobile transmitters, as well as leveraging 5G to deliver city-wide improvements.
BAI, which was awarded the concession after a competitive tender process, is a major global provider of 4G and 5G connected infrastructure. The company is responsible for the networks covering the New York Subway as well as those on the underground systems in Toronto and Hong Kong. It says it will deliver a neutral host network which now be available to all UK mobile operators. It will also be 5G ready, allowing for a seamless upgrade for mobile operators in the future.
The London “Tube” is one of the world’s largest underground networks and prior to the pandemic was used by more than five million passengers a day. Once fully delivered, more than 2,000kms of cabling are expected to be installed within tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours. In addition to benefiting customers, providing 4G on the network will generate additional revenue for TfL across the 20-year length of the concession, as well as helping operational teams by providing better connectivity while underground.
Prior to the award of the concession, TfL had begun installing the necessary cabling in a number of tunnels and across some stations. By July 2021, cabling had already been installed on the Jubilee and Victoria lines, as well as within the Northern Line Extension.
By mid-2022 the work on providing the network to deliver 4G coverage across the London Underground system was said to be on track (not literally). The previous pilot section on the eastern end of the Jubilee line was transferred to BAI in early 2022.
Some sections of the 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.
The mobile operators will also ensure continued and improved coverage via WiFi on the London Underground and Elizabeth line when the network transfers to BAI in April 2023.
Billy D’Arcy, CEO of BAI Communications UK, said: “Our long-term partnership with TfL will completely transform the passenger experience, as well as helping to boost London’s economy and providing social benefits for years to come. By building the most advanced network of its kind in the world here, we are helping London leapfrog other major cities in terms of connectivity and ensure that the capital remains the most attractive place for investment. Across the length of this concession, we fully anticipate investing in excess of £1 billion across the Connected London programme.”
The network will also be home to the Home Office’s new Emergency Services Network, which will replace the existing Airwave system currently used by the Police, Fire Services and emergency response teams across the UK. TfL has ensured that the latest requirements for the Emergency Services Network are fully incorporated and addressed within the network design.
Track-side connectivity and on-board WiFi services will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference in October, where TfL will be one of the main presenters (www.Traincomms.com ).
The Full Programme is Available now at the website, where you can also sign up for our Free WiFi on Trains News Service (www.Traincomms.com ).
Or, to discuss exhibiting at the conference, please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com