It seems like we have been promised the internet on the London Underground for years, and it might well become a reality in the next couple of months.
O2 has signed an agreement to pilot 4G in the London Underground tubes in March 2020. The Jubilee line between Canning Town and Westminster stations will be the first to experience 4G below the streets.
“The pilot will allow us to continue working hand in hand with TfL, and other network operators, to bring connectivity to commuters across London,” said Derek McManus, COO at O2. “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.”
“It’s great that O2 have signed up to bring their 4G network to Jubilee line customers,” said Shashi Verma, CTO at Transport for London (TfL). “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.”
Like the rollout of 5G, it would be unfair to promise too much in the early days. This is only a trial for the moment, and due to the complexities of laying communications infrastructure in underground tunnels which have trains running through them almost 19 hours a day, deployment across the entire network is likely to take a very long time.
The trial will begin in March 2020, with plans to award commercial contracts in the summer.
What is worth noting, is that while the O2 statements make it appear although it is an exclusive agreement, it is far from.
Three has confirmed it is also in agreement with TfL to participate in the trial, while TfL also confirmed that Vodafone signed-on in October. Sources have also suggested to Telecoms.com that EE will be signing a similar agreement in the near-term future. TfL is working to create a five-way agreement with all the UK MNOs to deliver 4G services to all customers on the London Underground, irrelevant as to which company they pay for connectivity.