EE joins TfL 4G trial on London Underground

The pilot, which already includes O2 and Vodafone, will bring mobile connectivity to part of the Jubilee Line from March 2020. 

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Transport for London (TfL) is currently installing a pilot system to provide 4G phone and internet signal on the trains and in the tunnels and stations of its Underground service.

EE has become the third mobile operator in the UK, after O2 and Vodafone, to partner with TfL on the project, which will launch its first phase, on the eastern half of the Underground’s Jubilee Line, in March 2020.

TfL announced its plans to trial 4G on the Underground last summer with a view to achieving wider rollout across the capital by the middle of the 2020s.

Marc Allera, BT Group’s CEO of its consumer division which owns EE, said in a statement: “We are delighted to formally join the TfL 4G on the Underground trial, connecting our customers between Westminster and Canning Town. This trial is the start of a huge step forward for London.”

Over the next few months, TfL engineers will install the necessary infrastructure to support 4G, including more than 2,000km of fibre optic cabling. TfL has confirmed this work will be done outside of operational hours so as not to disrupt the usual service of the line. London Underground will then lease out capacity on the service to the mobile operators.  

When it goes live, the Jubilee Line’s new 4G capabilities will allow passengers to connect their smartphones to Wi-Fi services while standing on platforms, and to switch to celluar coverage when passing through tunnels. The mobile coverage will also be made available in the stations, even those deep beneath street level, as a substitute for Wi-Fi, or for people who don’t have access to Wi-Fi through their phone. 

TfL has also confirmed its plans to upgrade to 5G connectivity at some point in the future. 5G is faster and more efficient than 4G, and is able to support more users on the network at any one time.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman

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