Cellular connectivity is finally hitting London Underground starting tomorrow, Wednesday 18th. The 4G rollout – targeting both tunnels and platforms – will start with the eastern part of the Jubilee Line. The overall plan is to have the entire Tube network connected by 2025, according to Transport for London. The project itself is helmed by O2 and EE, British telecom giants with half a century of combined experience doing infrastructural upgrades.
Jubilee Line going online
Underground 4G coverage is premiering across the stretch between Westminster and Canning Town stations. According to London mayor Sadiq Khan, the plan could become even more ambitious, with the city already pondering a 5G upgrade down the line – no pun intended. 4G connectivity will also be available inside the Tube’s ticket halls and corridors, TfL confirmed. The remaining portion of the Jubilee Line will be online by the end of the year.
With that said, seeing the project through to completion could prove tricky, as the 157-year-old subway network is naturally not particularly suited for contemporary telecommunications. In order to adapt 4G infrastructure to its many narrow tunnels, TfL intends to rely on aerials known as “leaky feeders”. Then there’s the fact the train service across the Jubilee Line is a 24/7 affair, which severely limits the amount of infrastructural deployment work that can be done at once.
In fact, it’s precisely because of these difficult conditions that the city administration is only now getting around to installing 4G infrastructure across the Tube, at a time when 5G rollouts in the country are already well underway. For added context, most other metropolitan subway systems like the ones in Seoul, Tokyo, and Moscow have been offering high-speed cellular service for many years now.