EE joins London’s 4G Underground trial

EE has become the third mobile operator in the UK to sign up to provide 4G on the London Underground as part of a trial taking place in partnership with Transport for London (TfL) in March 2020.

Along with O2 and Vodafone, the operator will bring 4G connectivity to a segment of the Jubilee Line covering the platforms and tunnels between Westminster and Canning Town.

The initiative, which will go live in March 2020, aims to pave the way for a wider network rollout across the Underground, providing a network signal to the 5 million commuters using the service every day.

As well as being able to access a 4G signal in the carriages, EE says the trial service will also cover connectivity across the ticket halls and corridors within stations along this section of the Jubilee Line, apart from London Bridge and Waterloo which may be added later during 2020.

Hundreds of miles of cabling is being installed for the roll-out, which is part of a range of measures from Mayor Sadiq Khan to boost digital connectivity across the capital and tackle London’s areas of poor connectivity.

TfL and the mobile operators will use the period to gain experience of providing mobile connectivity on the underground, with the aim of achieving full connectivity across the rest of the tube network by the mid-2020s. 

Derek McManus, COO at O2, commented,

“This unique collaboration builds on the recent announcement of the Shared Rural Network, showing how the telecommunications industry is spearheading a more connected, mobile Britain”.

For now, the network operators will be providing 4G connectivity at the trial stations, however, the network will be future-proofed with a view to providing 5G connectivity at some point. 

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s consumer division (including EE), said,

“We are delighted to formally join the TfL 4G on the Underground trial. This trial is the start of a huge step forward for London.”

Procurement for a concessionaire to facilitate 4G connectivity across the whole Underground network is underway, with a view to TfL awarding the contract in summer 2020. In future, there could also be potential for 5G connectivity in the Tube.

There already is 5G connectivity at rail stations across the TfL network, just not the underground ones. EE customers travelling through the main Waterloo station, Liverpool Street and Charing Cross can now access 5G, as well as at the overground stations of Highbury and Islington, New Cross Gate and Shoreditch High Street. 

Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL said,

“The London Underground network is an incredibly challenging environment in which to deliver technological improvements, but we remain on course for customers to start benefiting from our pilot from March 2020.” 

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