Sadiq Khan has confirmed that Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 will join BAI Communications’ (BAI) network, which marks a huge step forward in providing high-speed mobile connectivity for the London Tube.
Customers of mobile network operators Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 will access the high-speed 4G and 5G-ready mobile connectivity when using the Tube including when in tunnels.
BAI won a 20-year concession from Transport for London (TfL) in June 2021 to provide mobile connectivity on the Underground. Once the project completes, customers will be able to make calls at any point they are on the Underground.
The high-speed coverage will enable passengers to check the latest travel information, keep on top of their emails, enjoy social media and watch live stream videos. The provision of the high-speed coverage will enhance passenger experience while securing London’s transformation into a smart city.
BAI’s neutral host mobile network will also provide for the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) and will give first responders instant access to life-saving data, images and information in live situations and emergencies on the frontline.
The project to bring 4G coverage throughout the Tube network is well underway and has seen a successful transfer from the earlier pilot section on the eastern end of the Jubilee line over to BAI in the early part of this year.
Good progress is now being made and will see Bank, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston and Camden Town stations get coverage which will go live over the next six months. Once in place, the extra connection will support customers visiting the city, enabling them to plan shopping, events and social activities with friends and family in Central London in time for the festive season.
The Tube network will eventually see all stations and tunnels on the network receive high-quality uninterrupted mobile coverage. Some sections of the Tube network are set to go live by summer 2023 including the Central line and stations and tunnels through the City and West End. Transport for London and BAI are making continuous progress in bringing mobile coverage through the recently opened central section of the Elizabeth line between Paddington and Abbey Wood.
Mobile operators will provide continued and improved Wi-Fi coverage on the London Underground and Elizabeth line once the network is transferred 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 traveling 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 have accelerated London’s transformation into a cutting-edge digital hub, fueling growth and connecting communities to gigabit services.”
Throughout the wider Connected London program, BAI expects to invest over £1 billion in creating the backbone of mobile and digital connectivity for London. A full-fibre network will also be provided and will connect buildings and street assets such as traffic lights and lampposts which house small mobile transmitter cells to support the power of 5G and the Internet of Things. The mobile transmitter cells can be used by boroughs, academics and developers to provide improvements in everything from air quality and traffic congestion to public safety and city planning.