London Underground WiFi

It is expected that London underground passengers will soon be able to enjoy the facility of Wi-Fi coverage even in tunnels as part of plans to be announced after the election.

At present, commuters have access to Wi-Fi at stations and platforms but not in tunnels. Cities in other countries such as Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, New York and Seoul have had the facility of Wi-Fi services for several years now. However London lags behind other major capitals in terms of Wi-Fi coverage to its underground passengers.

The elimination of so called “not spots” at the underground was promised by London Mayor Sadiq Khan during last election. It is anticipated that Telecoms firms will be invited to bid for building infrastructure to provide Underground 4G Wi-Fi coverage by Transport for London (TfL) and Mr. Khan in the coming month.

London metro has one of the most high profile “not spots” among the country. But this situation will improve shortly as the mayor is interested in improving underground connectivity across the city.

If you have visited the London metro recently then you must have seen passengers sitting or standing in silence are glued to their smartphones inside packed carriages. This sight was even found before Virgin Media built a wireless network which provides internet connection on the platform though not on the trains.

This helps us to visualize how much intense the screen addiction would be if 4G reaches the Tube. The first time I viewed this picture of people phoning from underground was at Seoul in South Korea more than a decade ago. Hence network coverage is taking a long time to be available in London.

Maybe it’s already too late. Who uses their mobile to make calls anymore? But if you do make a call on the tunnel, expect to have some strong disturbance.

Companies that may be interested in bidding include Virgin Media, BT and Openreach. Virgin Media has already built the Wi-Fi infrastructure for Tube station concourses and platforms. BT is the owner of mobile phone network EE and claims that it has the strongest Wi-Fi access on Tube platforms already whereas Openreach already runs the UK’s broadband infrastructure.

Australian telecoms company BAI Communications is also considered to be interested in bidding for the contract which has lately opened offices in London and announced European expansion plans. This company has already declared its UK operation’s in which they have stated – “main priority is the delivery of advanced wireless services to large-scale transport networks, improving cost and operational outcomes for the operators”.

City Hall insiders said some details of the tender process were still being worked out. It is not disclosed yet if advertising would be something that passengers have to endure for enjoying the facility of extended Wi-Fi access.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are keen to offer full mobile phone coverage for our customers. The introduction of this would need to be commercially viable and would follow engagement with staff and customers.”

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