Virgin Media O2 brings 5G services to the London Underground
Virgin Media O2 has launched its first 4G and 5G services on sections of the Central and Northern Lines, claiming to allow its customers very high-speed mobile connectivity on the Tube network for the first time.
Run by Transport for London (TfL), the London Underground is one of the world’s largest underground networks, and before the pandemic, was used by more than five million passengers a day. Uninterrupted 4G mobile coverage was introduced on the eastern half of the Jubilee Line in 2020, and in 2021, mayor Sadiq Khan announced that passengers on the London Underground would be able to access full 4G and 5G mobile connectivity through a deal with connected infrastructure provider BAI Communications.
Under the terms of the 20-year contract, BAI will create a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity across London. It will see connectivity expanded in phases to ticket halls, platforms and tunnels on the Tube network over the next three years, with all stations and tunnels due to have mobile coverage by the end of 2024.
Once fully delivered, more than 2,000km of cabling will be installed in tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours. As well as benefiting customers, providing 4G and 5G on the Tube network is seen as a vehicle to generate additional revenue for TfL, as well as help operational teams by providing better connectivity while underground.
Working closely with BAI and TfL, Virgin Media O2 says it will bring connectivity to large swathes of the Tube network in the weeks and months ahead, ensuring customers can get online at every stage of their journey – from ticket halls to platforms, on trains and through tunnels. By the end of 2024, customers will be able to access 4G services across the entire Tube network, with many stations and tunnels boasting ultrafast 5G services wherever BAI’s infrastructure supports it.
In terms of its connectivity, Virgin Media O2 said that on the Central Line, 4G and 5G services have now been rolled out in the tunnels between Queensway and Holland Park, providing connectivity for customers travelling through these stations.
Notting Hill station has been upgraded to become a full-5G station – with the latest mobile network now available on Central Line platforms and in ticket halls, while 4G services have been introduced at Queensway and Holland Park stations. 4G and 5G has also been rolled out on the Northern Line between Kentish Town and Archway. The works, now complete, bring 5G to Archway and Tufnell Park stations, with 4G services now live throughout Kentish Town station.
Virgin Media O2 customers have already been able to access 4G services on the Jubilee Line between Canning Town and Westminster stations since services went live in 2020, as part of earlier work carried out with TfL and other mobile operators.
“For the first time, our customers can access the latest 5G mobile services deep under London,” said Virgin Media O2 chief commercial officer Gareth Turpin.
“This is set to revolutionise commuting in the capital, and in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be rolling out ultrafast mobile services at more Tube stations, in tunnels and on platforms to bring high-speed connectivity to our customers as they travel on the Underground. This is part of our commitment to upgrading the UK and ensuring customers can access our network wherever they are.”
Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, added: “It’s great to see 5G mobile connectivity now available at a number of Tube stations, proving that the state-of-the-art technology being installed across the network is already future-proofed and adaptable for the next generation of mobile signal.
“The Mayor committed to Londoners that we would deliver 4G throughout the Tube network as part of his determination to build a better London for everyone, and today marks the latest step forward as we work to improve digital connectivity at home, in our high streets, public spaces and across the transport network.”