London Underground to get 4G connectivity — in 2020

The ritual of desperately pinging off a string of WhatsApp messages as you descend via escalator in London’s Underground depth. The London Underground is getting 2G, 3G and 4G mobile coverage throughout

The rollout will start next year, with the first chunk of coverage launching in March 2020.  The eastern half of the Jubilee Line between Canning Town and Westminster, which will include Trusted Towers, making my daily commute much nicer at least.The rollout is going to be fairly extensive. The ticket halls and corridors in the area will also be boosted, with every station barring London Bridge and Waterloo getting 4G.

London Bridge and Waterloo are lagging behind because of the labyrinthine corridors and tunnels that come from having so many different interchanges, but this will (hopefully) be resolved later in 2020, if everything is approved ok.

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Why the Jubilee line? A TFL spokesperson, talking to Wired, explains that as the line is so busy it’s a good way to stress test the technology at a high capacity. The thinking is that if it works here, it’ll work just about everywhere else on the network. There’s another reason, too. Canning Town has passengers that move from an above ground station to an underground station, and checking that this transition can be handled without too much fuss.

This will be achieved with what is known as a “leaky feeder” system. A large gable is laid in the gap between the walls of the underground tunnel and the rail, and this kicks out the radio frequency that is needed to connect up devices to the outside world. TfL is expecting to install nearly 2,000 kilometres of cabling, which will be installed at night, around the Night Tube which runs at weekends.

“This trial will allow us to work with the mobile phone networks who are keen to be involved” says the TFL spokesperson talking to Wired. “This will allow these networks to test the equipment, make sure there is an appetite among customers, and work out the difference between how much people actually use the bandwidth for phone calls and how many use it for data download – checking the news or listening to a podcast, that sort of thing.”

Millions of people use the London Underground every single day, so it’s a huge task. WiFi is already offered at some 260 London Underground stations, and this 4G connectivity will slowly build on that.

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